Jazz Wax (US)

The title of Georgia Mancio’s new album with pianist Alan Broadbent is a tad misleading. None of the songs on the recording is an American Songbook standard. In fact, all of the music on the album was composed by Broadbent, with Mancio penning the lyrics.

These days, receiving a new jazz vocal album comprised entirely of original material gives me pause. Original doesn’t always mean exceptional. But in the case of these tender Broadbent-Mancio songs and Mancio’s delicious vocal delivery, Songbook is pure perfection. These songs may not be standards now, but they will be soon enough. They’re that good.

Mancio’s loving voice and approach reminds me of Meredith d’Ambrosio. Both singers have a warm, rich playful sound with intimate, hip phrasing and spot-on intonation. On the piano side, Songbook reminds me of Broadbent’s studio albums with Irene Kral in the 1970s. Songbook has that same level of casual vocal intensity and beautiful chord voicings that made those albums so meaningful. You can hear Mancio and Broadbent listening to each other and working together.

Songbook is Mancio’s sixth album, and Broadbent is joined here by bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Dave Ohm. Born in Croydon, England, in 1972, Mancio brings grace and wisdom to each song. Her lyric-writing is sophisticated and sensitive beyond her years, and her voice wraps sweetly around Broadbent’s melodies.

Their collaboration began several years ago, after Mancio sang Heart’s Desire, a song Broadbent co-wrote with Dave Frishberg. She performed it during a duo gig with Broadbent.

Mancio then asked Broadbent if he had others. He sent along a demo of The Long Goodbye and asked her to write a lyric. Mancio was taken aback, since she hadn’t even hinted that she wanted to write a song with him. It took her a month to write the words, and Broadbent loved the result. That’s when he knew his songs were in good hands. So he sent Mancio another and another and another.

When Mancio was ready to record a new album recently, she asked Broadbent if he’d join her. He thought recording an entire album of their work together might be ideal. As Mancio told Sebastian of the London Jazz News, “I feel these songs could be standards [from another era] and yet there’s a modern touch to them.” There is indeed. As with Meredith d’Ambrosio’s originals, Mancio’s words captivate and seduce with cool, floral determination and poetry.

Do yourself a favor and just buy Songbook. It’s a remarkably sensitive album that reminds us how love feels at the start. You won’t be disappointed.