MIKE WESTBROOK has written a preview of Off Abbey Road, which receives two performances in London in August:
The Beatles’ Abbey Road is a classic of English 20th century music. It should be played at the Last Night of the Proms, along with Elgar. But more appropriate, perhaps, that it should be performed outside the Albert Hall, in Exhibition Road. All over the world people love this music. They know every word of every lyric, every note of every tune. In adapting for live performance what was originally conceived as a studio piece, any change is immediately apparent. Let jazz musicians loose on such familiar material and someone is bound to object.
After our performance of Big Band Rossini in the Proms in 1992, I received hate mail. Similarly Off Abbey Road has had a few savage reviews from purists. Thankfully most people have taken it in the spirit that it is offered – a sincere tribute to a masterwork of Pop Music, expressed in the only way we know how. To jazz musicians no material is sacred, it has to withstand anything they can throw at it.
When I started work on this, I produced a score detailing everything that happens on the record. Then, having de-constructed it, I put it together again. Some sections I simply re-arranged for the line-up of my band: two vocalists, two saxes, guitar, piano, tuba and drums. Other sections seemed to cry out to be opened up, for additional lines and chord changes and for improvisation, solo and collective.
That Abbey Road can be translated into our musical world and lose nothing in translation, indeed gain something, testifies to the enduring quality of the original. This is what has brought us back many times to Off Abbey Road over the years. There are depths in Abbey Road, musical and spiritual.
There is passion, humour and, in fact, all you need, - Love.
(c)Mike Westbrook, July 2012.
OFF ABBEY ROAD was premiered in 1988 and released by ENJA Records on their Tip Toe label in 1991
Mike Westbrook Band
John Winfield, Kate Westbrook - vocals
Brian Godding - guitar, Andy Grappy - tuba
Mike Westbrook - piano, Simon Pearson - drums
Pete Whyman, Alan Wakeman - saxes
PERFORMANCES: Sunday 5th August at 8pm - Exhibition Road Show , South Kensington
Wednesday 22nd August - 606 Club, Chelsea