All About Jazz (UK/US)
Twenty years ago Georgia Mancio, the London-based singer and songwriter, began listening to pianist Alan Broadbent’s recordings with Irene Kral. In 2013 the pair began working together as a duo after Mancio sent Broadbent a message “on a whim.” In 2015 and 2016 they recorded together and Songbook is the result: a dozen original compositions—music by Broadbent, lyrics by Mancio—that signal an exciting and sophisticated new partnership.
The album’s charms are apparent from the opening bars of the delicate but upbeat “The Journey Home.” Broadbent, bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Dave Ohm are in sync from the off—light touch, subtle phrasing, cool swing all serve to highlight Mancio’s evocative vocal. It’s an ensemble full of experienced performers, a notable absence of “look at me” playing, four talented individuals happy to perform in service to the songs.
In many of these songs the beauty has a melancholy air: “The Last Goodbye,” “Cherry Tree,” “Lullaby For MM.” But there’s a sense of celebration in others—”Someone’s Sun,” a clear nod to Mancio’s love of and talent for the music of Brazil; “Small Wonder” (“I see life through your eyes and take first prize”); the yearning yet upbeat “Close To The Moon”; “One For Bud,” one of Broadbent’s older compositions, combined with Mancio’s lyrics to bring the pianist’s love of Bud Powell to joyous life. Throughout, all of the performances are superb and many of the melodies effortlessly insinuate themselves into the listener’s brain.
A word, too, for the cover design. Simon Manfield’s illustrations serve to highlight the emotions of Mancio’s lyrics—a pair of shoes for “The Last Goodbye,” a path through a field for “The Journey Home.” Most poignantly, the pairing of front and back covers—a young boy and girl dance under a cherry tree, an elderly man leans on his stick and gazes at the same tree. Like the performances, these illustrations are understated yet evocative. The 4.5 stars are all for the music, though.