Mike Westbrook is primarily known as a jazz pianist, but he assembled his brass band to incorporate a wide range of unusual material. He primarily plays euphonium for these sessions, as he's joined by Dave Chambers (tenor and soprano saxes), Kate Barnard (tenor horn and piccolo), Paul Rutherford, and trumpeter Phil Minton, each of whom take turns with the vocals. Even just focusing on the jazz compositions, there is a broad range of material, from Jelly Roll Morton's "Jelly Roll Blues" to Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" and Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight," all of which are striking in a brass-only setting. The Depression-era "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" sound very different in a brass band setting, even with the vocals intact. But Westbrook also explores earlier centuries, including putting music to several poems by poet William Blake (where he finally plays a bit of piano) and the 16th century "Le Ballet Comique de la Reine." This music is extremely difficult to classify, though it consistently proves intriguing. But this English LP on the Transatlantic label may be somewhat difficult to find.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden