The two-time Grammy winning arranger (for Natalie Cole and Charlie Haden featuring Shirley Horn) is used to working with big band charts and multi-harmonic orchestral arrangements, but at heart he's a pianist with a great love for standards and all things jazz. The idea on this beautiful trio date is to go small, strip down to the basics of seven classics and see what he - long a believer in the often unpredictable joys of improvisation - can do with the swinging help of bassist Brian Bromberg and drummer Joe La Barbera. For those who love piano trio music, the answer is, quite a lot. The tunes range in time from six-and-a-half to nine minutes, plenty of time to have intricate emotional conversations that dash on unexpected journeys. The title track starts out like a ballad, but within minutes becomes a spirited, jaunty stroll with rushes of flurried ivories keeping pace above the brushes and Bromberg's cool throb. They play "I Wish I Knew" a little simpler, as a graceful romance, but pick up the pace with the odd locomotive meters and snappy bass lines of "With the Wind and the Rain in Her Hair." "What's New" begins with a low register cadenza underpinning some wild upper register movement before settling into a tender, reflective pocket. It's beautifully played, but the most remarkable feature is the choice of material which draws more obscure selections from familiar names. All the more open palette for the trio to play with.
- Jonathan Widran (All Music Guide)
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Alan Broadbent - you and the night and the music
Small is not a word associated with Alan Broadbent, a pianist and arranger often thought of in terms signifying big. One immediately thinks of the big band charts he has constructed as musical arranger for singers such as Natalie Cole, Mel Torme, and Michael Feinstein, the larger-than-life, multi-harmonic arrangements he adds to orchestral projects, and the very big sound that emerges from the big orchestras that give voice to those arrangements. You and the Night and the Music is Alan Broadbent on a much smaller, but certainly more revealing scale. Nothing about it cries "big". The music contained within presents Broadbent in the most intimate of jazz settings, the piano trio. Its truest link to those Grammy-winning big band arrangements is the material, seven standards from the pens of esteemed writers including songsmith Jerome Kern and jazz musicians Bobby Haggart and Lee Morgan. Joined by longtime drummer Joe Labarbera, and bassist Brian Bromberg, Broadbent uses familiar songs and melodies to express a wealth of emotion. Within those songs, he sympathetically echoes the ups and downs, peaks and valleys that comprise the essence of a person's life. It is an intimacy, and a smallness of scale, that the pianist treasures. "Improvising on the piano is the true essence of jazz," Broadbent states without hesitation. "When you start playing, you don't know what the arrangement is going to be, you don't know what the result will sound like. You use a familiar melody as a starting point, and from there it depends on the mood of the musicians. The music might go in any number of unexpected directions. I can play these songs every day, and every day they would sound completely different depending upon how I was feeling at the time." It is perhaps that sense of living in the moment that allows Broadbent's trio music to breathe with such universal emotional underpinning. The songs are neither happy nor sad, joyous nor somber, upbeat nor melancholy. Rather, they are all - and none - of the above. As the trio explores an ever-expanding palette of harmonies, questions are asked, answers are given, and the wealth of life's experiences are portrayed not as musical notes, but as broad swatches of color that constantly resolve into one another. Broadbent's playing does not hit the listener over the head with implied meaning, rather, his inherent colloquialisms beckon one to listen closer, to extrapolate from the music the thoughts and moods of the artist. Broadbent says that "some days the music comes out great, and some days you can't seem to find yourself in the song, but maybe something great can come of that too. Jazz is the daily wondering if you can still do it. You can practice a Chopin etude, but you can't practice jazz. It comes from your inner self, your inner ear, and it expresses the way the musician was feeling in the moment."
The scary part is the unpredictability of it all. "I'm sure that is what drove a lot of great musicians over the brink" he muses. "It's a constant worry about whether or not you can wake up tomorrow and still do it."
For You and the Night and the Music, Broadbent's intentions are focused on standards which, he says, "have an amazing ability to take on the personality of the performer. The harmonies are very malleable, and can be changed without compromising the integrity of the tune, and the melodies give an instantly recognizable structure upon which to build harmonic improvisations. That compact, recognizable structure is the perfect starting point from which to immerse myself in total improvisational freedom." A native of Auckland, New Zealand, and a current Los Angeles, California, resident, Broadbent has periodically applied his sense of "freedom" to a wide array of styles and genres. Ha began performing classical music professionally in his teens and later studied composition and arrangement at Boston's Berklee College of Music. At the same time, he studied jazz with piano icon Lenny Tristano, who impressed upon him the importance of singing melodies. In 1969, Broadbent joined Woody Herman's band in the dual role of arranger and pianist, an experience which unexpectedly came to the fore during the recording of You and the Night and the Music. The piano cadenza from Haggarts "What's New," gives insight into the on-the-spot nature of improvisation, and the way in which a musician's experiences and moods can spontaneously influence the music. As the song ends, Broadbent launches into a solo which begins with anticipated drama, but ends abruptly. After a momentary pause, a familiar melody breathes a final breath into the song.
"I was going, going, and all of a sudden I just collapsed," Broadbent explains. "With no place else to go, I spontaneously threw in a quote from "My Momma Done Told Me," which is something I used to play all the time in Woody Hermans band. It was instantaneous, just something pulled out of my memory. When a musician is fully immersed in the moment, they are at the mercy of their feelings and the sum of their experiences." Fortunately, Broadbent is willing and able to share with his listener. One can only guess at the difficulty of baring the soul, and letting any number of strangers voyeuristically indulge in the moment. You and the Night and the Music is thought-provoking expression given to the listener. It is music, it is jazz. It is Alan Broadbent at his most pure. It is small. And yet, it is so very much bigger than it at first might appear to be.