Back in the days when I had less money than I do now I used to frequent the doubtless long-gone Garon Records in Cambridge – a shop which specialised in jazz deletions, or ‘cut-outs’ as they were known, from the small nick in the sleeve to show they’d been deleted. One of my prized discoveries was a double LP by Mike Westbrook, including both his Metropolis suite and Citadel/Room 315. So stumbling across the CD of Citadel/Room 315 in a jazz shop last week was cheering,
I’ve always liked the jazz big band sound – especially when the sound has some grit between the melodies and harmonics, and Westbrook achieves this here, helped by some fine playing, notably from John Surman. The sleevenotes explain that the grim ’60s building on the cover is a block at Leeds College of Art. Westbrook had just met Kate, who worked there (they married later), and on a visit to see her he discovered a room in the college with a grand piano in it “that nobody seemed to use”. So he composed the suite there, a commission from Swedish Radio. Hence the title of the suite; and in the cover picture it may even be him you can make out at the open window. [Update: ‘Defintely Mike at the window’, says a comment, below.] Unused rooms with grand pianos in them? Very 1970s. Audit culture will, doubtless, have done for that kind of management carelessness by now.