Alan Broadbent with the London Metropolitan Orchestra at Abbey Road – Developing Story
(Eden River Records ERR-CD-02. CD Review by Peter Jones)
Hot on the heels of his collaboration with the singer Georgia Mancio, here comes another album from pianist and composer Alan Broadbent. Cologne-based producer Ralf Kemper instigated the recording and release of the project on his own Eden River label.
The album consists of a half-hour orchestral piece in three ‘movements’, plus two of Broadbent’s unrelated tunes and four standards. At its core is a jazz trio, with Harvie S on bass and Peter Erskine on drums. The London Metropolitan Orchestra provides a huge, lush, unifying backdrop to the whole enterprise.
Not surprisingly, the feel is at times symphonic, at times filmic, at others – particularly when the trio dominates – just jazzy. So the best advice I can offer is: chuck the genres away and enjoy the music for itself.
There is nothing aggressively modernist about Broadbent’s music; with the title piece we are in the world of emotional narrative, evoking old-fashioned Hollywood movies. Using a broad romantic brush and a vivid palette of sound he initially conjures up a series of wide, sunlit establishing shots, perhaps of the sort filmed from a small plane flying over mountains. When the trio comes in, and the pulse begins, we have cut to a more specific location; and as the orchestra subsides to a murmur, we are setting the mood for some kind of interior sequence, a personal or family drama.
When the third movement starts up with the trio, we can hear what a fine, fluent pianist Broadbent is, his chord choices always satisfying, his playing meshing seamlessly with the orchestration. In his detailed sleeve notes, he describes what he strives for in his playing – ‘that sense of dancing with the time.’
Speaking of seamless, the transition to Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now is a case in point. Memorable for its 1962 trio interpretation by Bill Evans, Broadbent’s is lighter, less introverted, more akin to the original orchestrated recording with Sonny Burke and Sarah Vaughan. Coltrane’s Naima, a tune of deep ethereal beauty, comes next. This first head is played on solo piano, followed by an extended segment based on the last four bars, before the orchestra slides in quietly underneath.
A couple of equally familiar tunes follow – Blue in Green and Milestones – along with Broadbent’s compositions Lady in the Lake, a piece written for Charlie Haden’s band Quartet West, and Children of Lima, written for Woody Herman back in the early 1970s.
Jazz doesn’t often receive this royal treatment; but Broadbent’s music fully rewards the time, money and effort that went into getting it on to disc.