London Jazz News (UK)

Roomspin are releasing Songbook, a new album of originals by pianist/composer Alan Broadbent and vocalist/lyricist Georgia Mancio on 23rd April 2017, which is also Alan Broadbent’s 70th birthday.

Broadbent has had lyrics written to his music before, most notably by Dave Frishberg (of ‘I’m Hip’ and ‘Sweet Kentucky Ham’ fame), and Mancio has provided lyrics for tunes by Pat Metheny and Kate Williams among others, but this is the first album of solely Broadbent compositions with Mancio lyrics – a Georgia Mancio / Alan Broadbent songbook.

The pair first performed together in 2013 as a duo and it went well, so soon they played as a quartet with Oli Hayhurst on double bass and Dave Ohm on drums and percussion. This is the line-up for Songbook.

Broadbent initially invited Mancio to write a lyric for ‘The Long Goodbye’, a lovely tune which featured on Charlie Haden’s Quartet West 1991 album ‘Haunted Heart’. The lyric she wrote, retitled ‘The Last Goodbye’, was inspired by a visit to her late father’s house. It is a moving account of grief and loss. The success of this first collaboration led to the reworking of some of Broadbent’s earlier work. For me ‘The Last Goodbye’ is the standout song on the album. The piano playing is exquisite, effortlessly melodic and the lyrics are delivered with touching sincerity.

‘The Journey Home’ from Broadbent’s 2005 ‘Round Midnight’ album, is a delightful laid back tune with an imaginative bass solo from Oli Hayhurst. It already sounds like a West Coast standard. ‘One for Bud’ from the 2009 Pacific Standard Time album, a homage to Bud Powell, is reminiscent of Annie Ross’ ‘Twisted’, and features thrilling performances from the whole quartet. There are exciting but brief solos from all the band, and Mancio’s vocal line is a high wire feat. ‘Just Like a Child’ (originally a 1997 tune called ‘Chris Craft’) is another breath-taking musical flight with fantastically dexterous drumming from Dave Ohm, a driving bass and wonderfully intricate piano.

‘Cherry Tree’, with its subtle piano and understated bass and drums, is musically a homage to Tadd Dameron, and its poignant lyrics continue the recurring theme of this album – the passing of time. ‘Where the Soft Winds Blow’ is a tune from 1964 when, incredibly, Broadbent was 17. It’s a delicate piece with nods to Michel Legrand and a hint of a Californian cocktail lounge at closing time. There are also brand new songs like ‘Hide me from the Moonlight’, which at first you think you must have heard before, so redolent it is of a Rodgers and Hammerstein love song, including 1950s style sentimental lyrics. In the same vein, Ella Fitzgerald surely would have chosen to sing ‘Close to the Moon’ had it been written in time for her. ‘Someone’s Sun’ could be a Tropicália hit for Baden Powell and de Moraes, with its beguiling bossa nova rhythm and soft sinuous singing. I bet it would sound great in Portuguese.

These are sophisticated well-crafted songs, and the musicianship is outstanding. Georgia Mancio’s singing is appropriately elegant, Alan Broadbent’s playing is immaculate, and Oli Hayhurst and Dave Ohm provide faultless bass and percussion throughout. I would love to hear these songs live.