Mike Westbrook: Celebration (1967) Deram

Selection:  Pastoral – Awakening (Westbrook/ Surman) 13:12

.  .  . 

Tracklist:

A1. Pastoral 02:41
A2. Awakening 10:31
A3. Parade 07:56
A4. Echoes and Heroics 00:17
B1. A Greeting 05:40
B2. Image 06:38
B3. Dirge 04:14
B4. Portrait 07:32

First two tracks merge together, lacking a track-break, so the selection is both Pastoral and Awakening..

Artists

Mike Osborne, alto saxophone; Bernie Living, alto saxophone, flute; John Surman, baritone saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Harry Miller, bass; Tom Bennelick, french horn; Mike Westbrook, piano; Dave Chambers, tenor saxophone, Clarinet; Malcolm Griffiths, trombone; Dave Holdsworth, trumpet, flugelhorn; George Smith, tuba; Dave Perrottet, valve trombone; Alan Jackson, drums; recorded 29th July and 5th August 1967,  John Surman/ Mike Westbrook, compositions; Eddie Kramer, producer and engineer, Graham Keen, photography; Alan Jackson, cover design; liner notes, the notable jazz writer and experimental jazz promoter, Victor Schonfield (sadly passed away May 2022)

Producer/ engineer Eddie Kramer lists on his credits Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced, Axis Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland, Traffic’s Mr Fantasy, then goes on to add Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, and just about everyone in the the British Rock Hall of Fame. Westbrook looks like the odd man out with a jazz concert band, an acoustic 12-tet, no 300-watt Marshal stacks or amplified instruments.  Trust The Tracking-Force, Luke.

Bass player Harry Miller: native of Capetown, South Africa, joined Manfred Mann, played in Brotherhood of Breath, was a member of Keith Tippett’s big band Centipede, co-founded Ogun Records, moved eventually to Holland, where he sadly died in a car accident in 1983. 

Music

Celebration jazz orchestra composition, melodies, modes and tempo dictated by Westbrook and Surman, but with ample freedom in the solo passages. It is not a swing-band, or a big-band power-outing, or a stimulus-package ensemble with three of everything. It is somewhere between Gil Evans and George Russell, with a touch of Mingus, and a smidgin of  Ellington and (runs out of reference points) and,. . .  and none of these.

The solo voices are the cream of British  jazz instrumentalists of the late Sixties – John Surman,  Mike Osborne, Malcolm Griffiths, Dave Holdsworth.  Despite its origin in the political/social cauldron of 1967 it is not the voice of “protest” left to folksingers, it is a celebration of music, with an occasional digression into the meme of conflict – Westbrook’s pieces often make reference to “war” by way of a musical metaphor, an instrument-battlefield, cacophony

The construction is a coat of many colours, melodic passages, repeating themes, modal breakouts which underscore solo improvisation floating on air, and artists allowed out of the rhythm section pen for a brief bass or drum solo. To coin a cliché, it’s good stuff and sounds great! (Hoffmen™)

Vinyl: Decca Deram SML 1013 Stereo original

Another piece of rock-solid engineering from Decca, quality recording, mixing, mastering and pressing . Decca integrate the ensemble and the voices of the soloists organically inter-twined, just lie back and let it roll over you. 

Deram is short for Deramic Sound, or in full, Decca Panoramic Sound, a Decca engineering development in the later 60s to exploit multi-track recorders, taking a further step beyond early left-right-centre stereo. Decca was then, at heart, a sound engineering company: the engineer’s core belief being that everything can be improved, by engineers, of course. Sadly, this was later replaced by the belief that everything can be made more cheaply, and if it sounds worse, they’ll never notice, a different sort of progress.

Instead of overdubbing and mixing four individual mono tracks from a four-track recorder, Decca engineers used two four-track machines to record and layer multiple two-channel stereo recordings, permitting instruments to be placed in any position within the stereo field. Panoramic Sound resulted in a more complex but natural spread of instruments, an image which is easier for the listener to reconstruct than artificial left-right-centre. You can hear it strongly at work in Celebration, a perfect vehicle for Westbrook’s twelve piece Concert Band.

For a less kind take on Decca and Deram, from the pages of Record Collector magazine. In the Garden Of Deram.  RC represent a different kind of collector to LJC, and has a recurrent theme about record companies being “run by people (old men)  who don’t know what’s going on“.  It also has a less fastidious take on accuracy:

“Deram was named after Decca Ceramic, a defunct brand of turntable pick-up”

Whichever origin of name you prefer, Decca will always be known as the label who in 1962 turned down The Beatles (“guitar groups are on their way out’) But two years later still signed The Rolling Stones. Seems guitar groups made an unexpected comeback.

For the benefit of Record Collector readers, Decca (UK) has had a woman as President of Decca Records Group since 2017, Rebecca Allen. She came up the classical route, but is also responsible for Decca’s current jazz output (umm, or the lack of). 

Collector’s Corner

Mid-September, mark your calendar, John is back: 

Tone Poet continues to lead the way, mono AND stereo edition complete with alternate takes, on vinyl, pulling ahead of The Evil Silver Disc. You almost feel sorry for the CD. (I said “almost”)

1577 was recorded September 15, 1957, very early days in Van Gelder two track recording, never intended for stereo. Mono is the edition of choice, as Rudy intended, and what Coltrane heard during playback in the studio.

Joe Harley and Kevin Gray discuss the production here (Youtube) 37 minutes in, Rudy compressing and hotter, fascinating

LJC 

9 thoughts on “Mike Westbrook: Celebration (1967) Deram

  1. DECCA on the whole did pretty well I think. In the R n B boom they had The Stones, Mayall, , Small Faces, Them etc

    After the boom ended ,they must have told their A and R chaps ( “ with it men in spotty ties”) to get down to Ronnie Scott’s and The 100 Club and find som artistes to sign.

    Nova etc labels recorded Westbrook , Surman, Skidmore, Collier etc , great British jazz we are all still listening to now.

    Their Prog offerings included interesting avant garden bands eg Egg

    Paradoxically the greatest music ever made is recorded for posterity because someone sees a possible financial profit.

    DECCA did a good job for posterity in capturing all this music…………..,… unfortunately they did miss the opportunity to sign The Beatles though!

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  2. DECCA stereo records of this period sound really good .They were very proud of their 20 Channel Console Mixer .I have a stereo copy of Petrushka made using this device in their Phase 4 Stereo series .
    Some excellent sounding DECCA recorded stereo jazz from this period includes Child Song – Henry Lowther Band and Once Upon a Time – Alan Skidmore

    You can probably download a more complex console from the internet these days for a tenner.

    DECCA could never recover from missing The Beatles (who could) and it looks like management was a mess and out of touch ,but they did try to learn from their mistake They asked George Harrison if he could recommend anyone to sign – he recommended The Rolling Stones

    Apart from classical records in their Phase 4 Series, the other roster of talent available on DECCA looks pretty bland, not to say awful.

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  3. Glad they mentioned Victor Shonfield he was the first to recognise Westbrook etc and ask Hugh Mendel to make an album.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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    • Victor Schonfield and Hugh Mendl two very important figures in the promotion and recording of British Jazz of the time.
      Not forgetting yourself of course whose contribution can never be over estimated, welcome to LJC

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    • Most everything by Klimt and its sub-label Cool Cult Records ( a Paris based DJ) are “Unofficial Releases” known as Records Of Indeterminate Origin (ROIR). Cut from a digital copy file, likely a needle-drop, possibly CD or digital streaming source, never been near original or copy tape. Obviously I haven’t heard it, but there is very little chance a bootleg press from 2013 will sound any good.

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      • Loving your recent focus on some of the stalwarts of British Jazz. The Mike Westbrook album is fabulous especially if you can get hold of an original pressing. His work with John Surnham on Metropolis and Citadel 315 are my absolute favourite jazz albums of this incredibly fertile period.

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    • Reid, CELEBRATION is a terrific record and the only copy I have is the Klimt LP from 2013. Prior to that I had a CD which I think was part of the Resteamed or Impressed with… series — I can’t remember. So I can’t compare the Klimt version with an original but what I will say is that I think it sounds better than the CD I had and better than I expected for the fourteen quid it cost me a few years ago. Whenever I play it it always seems to need an extra bit of a nudge in volume levels to bring out the best but frankly that is as likely to be the fault of my elderly ears as it is the Klimt vinyl. If I were to find an original in NM condition then I would replace the Klimt version in a nanosecond: but I’m not likely to find that at fourteen quid, am I?

      John Surman is in spectacular form on this record.

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      • Sorry, I meant to add that I have no idea whether the Klimt is AAA but I would think it is extremely unlikely. This is the only Klimt title I have but I don’t think the company ever publishes provenance of its releases…

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