LJF 2016: Westbrook and Borochov

Bob Weir is moved by Mike Westbrook's solo piano recital and is happy to discover trumpeter Itamar Borochov at an early-hours Ronnie Scott's gig

Mike Westbrook (pictured right) has had a long and distinguished career as a bandleader and composer in jazz and theatre. These achievements have tended to overshadow his considerable talents as a creative piano player. It was wholly appropriate, therefore, as he reached 80, for the LJF to arrange a solo piano recital for him at Kings Place.

He performed the material from the solo CD, Paris, which he recorded in that city in July. The concert was divided into four sections - The Front Page, Bar-Room Piano, Love Stories and The Blues - to reflect the remarkable variety of his work over more than half a century.

His set included Freedom's Crown and My Lover's Coat as moving elegies for a couple of departed friends. A long ballad medley had a tender and very personal interpretation of Sophisticated Lady for one of his major compositional influences, Duke Ellington. There was also a reading with pianistic reflections of a Wilfred Owen poem as an emotional tribute to the fallen of the first world war.

Everything was at slow tempo, ruminative, wistfully romantic and full of enchanting melody. He made good use of the lovely Steinway grand, most expressively with the deep tones of the bass register and in his liberal use of sustain for interesting harmonies.

Overall, it was a very touching experience which will hopefully encourage him to play solo more often.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover the Itamar Borochov quartet at Ronnie Scott's in the early hours of Saturday morning. The gig wasn’t listed as part of the LJF although the quartet was part of the LJF on the Barbican Freestage the next afternoon. This was Itamar's first visit to the UK but the quality of the Israeli trumpeter's performance and the band's positive reception should ensure that it is not his last. The quartet included the brilliant pianist Shai Maestro in a considered and economical sideman role - a far cry from his prodigy days with Avishai Cohen - and Itamar’s elder brother Avri on bass (Itamar and Avri pictured left).

The repertoire was from their Boomerang album with several attractive originals by the leader. They played in a bright, contemporary NYC style with Arab/Israeli and pan-African flavours. There was jazz history in Itamar's playing with traces of Brownie and Woody Shaw. James Street was a good example of his impressive control of the whole trumpet range.

Photos by Marcin Pulawski

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