The fact that in the morass of contemporary music, the musicianship of Mike Westbrook may be all but forgotten is – among other things – also due to his resistance to easy classification. Starcross Bridge is a perfect example of this latter aspect of Mr Westbrook’s music. It’s dreamy voyage is neither wholly improvised, not somewhat beholden to black dots on paper. The daring notion that Mr Westbrook was never able to fully escape the pull of tradition nor wholly given to free improvisation. Instead Mr Westbrook has spent a lifetime in the mastering, sifting and exploitation of all of the achievements of experimentation – past and present – always with a view of the future.
On this album Mr Westbrook manages to free himself of the entire weight of history, both his own and that of music in general, to create a programme that is the epitomé of a hieratic music drama in which a perfect fusion of music and narrative facilitates a spiritual elevation seemingly of his life. It features moments of great power in three “chapters” and a “postscript” comprising songs each of which is clearly a product of questing intellect and intuition. With his flawless technique, Romantic sensibility and assured sense of line Mr Westbrook makes the ideal interpreter of songs – both classic and (newly) composed (by him). This volume contains a generous dappling of them scattered through the “chapters”, the surprise in the “postscript” being an aira from Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville.
All of the music is given electrifying performances on a rich-toned piano, on which Mr Westbrook proclaims himself (inadvertently) an incredible interpreter of Thelonious Monk in addition to many other things. The visionary and sometimes eccentric nature of his writing means that there are also few pianists around who can come to grips of his work. Only he can penetrate, it would seem, the mercurial nature of these works. In his hands, for instance, “Starcross Bridge”, “Brasilian Love Songs”, “If Thou Must Leave Me” and “Rooster Rabelais” come across with a rare and deep profundity, as does the work of Rossini, with which he closes this majestic album.
Track list – Chapter One 1: My Song Is Love Unknown; 2: Starcross Bridge; 3: ‘Round Midnight; 4: Because; 5: Brasilian Love Songs; 6: Johnny Come Lately; 7: Monk’s Mood; Chapter Two 8: I Got It Bad – And That Ain’t Good; 9: View From The Drawbridge; 10: You Make Me Feel Brand Now; 11: If Thou Must Love Me; Chapter Three 12: Blues for Terenzi; 13: Rooster Rabelais; Postscript14: L’amoroso e sincero lindoro
Personnel – Mike Westbrook: piano
Released – 2018
Label – hatHUT Records (hatOLOGY754)
Runtime – 1:02:14