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Tony Westlake CD Launch

November 8, 2012

I’ve been away in Southeast Asia for a month, but I’m happy to be back to discover a whole raft of great jazz I can recommend for the month of November.

First up is the Tony Westlake posthumous CD launch and tribute performances with Misha Piatigorsky, Neil Swainson and Chris Wabich of Sketchy Black Dog at Hermann’s on Saturday and Sunday night (Nov. 10,11)  in Victoria. Both shows get underway at 7pm and will include a short video of Westlake performing, a first set featuring his original compositions performed by SBD, and a second set of SBD’s own material.

Do everything you can to get to one of these shows and to purchase Westlake’s CD Listen to Your Heart recorded in July just six weeks before he died. As I write, I’m playing the title track, a gorgeous song lovingly rendered as a solo piano piece that perfectly sets the stage for this fine collection of original tunes.

Some of the material was written years ago when Westlake turned from actively performing in Victoria to composing as he raised a family and ran a business. Other tunes were written in the last year of his life, a year made possible by a lung cancer drug approved relatively recently in B.C. His wife Elisabeth says the drug gave him a good year and allowed him to realize his dream of returning to music in his retirement, albeit only for a short time.

Piatigorsky, Swainson, and Wabich join him on tracks 2,3,4,6, and 7, with the trio performing the remaining tracks (10 in all) on its own. Westlake’s melodies stand with the best, and while it’s a shame his illness left him too weak to do all the piano work on his own for this recording, there’s something special in Westlake and Piatigorsky  interpreting these songs together with a moving combination of gentleness, soul, passion, and, at times, real fire.

And Swainson and Wabich are always tasteful in their accompaniment with Swainson, one of Canada’s greatest bassists, delivering fine solos on a couple of tunes.

The back story of Westlake’s illness and his desire to see his music recorded before he died adds poignancy to this recording. Even without that it’s a great album. In fact, it includes some of the finest playing I’ve heard from Piatigorsky – he was clearly inspired to give everything he had to this project.

Above all, these are tremendous songs worth recording.

You can listen to the album and purchase it here. Go the Hermann’s website to get more information on the performances.


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