Missing Duke (Spain)

Alan would like to thank Richard Rodgers, Victor Young,  David Raksin, Tadd Dameron, and Duke Ellington”.

This is the last phrase that appears in the dedications of the liner notes in  Quiet Is the Star , the result of the beautiful and productive understanding of the duo formed by the vocalist and lyricist Georgia Mancio and the composer and pianist Alan Broadbent. 

Listening to this delicate work of music-literary goldsmithery, it makes perfect sense that the first name for which Broadbent shows appreciation is that of Richard Rodgers. Rodgers and his second long-time collaborator, Oscar Hammerstein II , formed one of the most important tandem in 20th century musical theater composition, and their work was instrumental in expanding the American Songbook and jazz standards. In his legacy (Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, El Rey y Yo, The Sound Of Music ) we find a perfect cog in the unity of musical and literary composition; such was his empathy and his artistic level that in most cases it seemed that the work had been composed by a single man.

And it is inevitable, listening to the nine original songs that make up  Quiet Is the Star , to think about the best of the American Songbook, Tin Pan Alley and the value of the songs; to dream again as in those decades of the 20th century where the composition of a beautiful melody went hand in hand with excellence in the written message, so that the themes were – and they are on this album – a whole in this reality: that achieves the synergy between music and lyrics; the score and the text.

Nine years after starting their musical collaboration, we can consider Quiet Is the Star as the most important work of this joint artistic adventure. Alan Broadbent’s career cannot be summed up in one text without using thousands of words; Broadbent is the most musically valued archetype of pianist: leader, sideman , great vocal accompanist, sensitive creator, versatile arranger, grateful for legacy, transparent performance and composition, with an extraordinary gift for expression.

Although we comment on his collaborations with  Woody Herman, Sheila Jordan, Toots Thielemans, Barbra Streisand, Lee Konitz,  Natalie Cole,  Paul McCartney, Irene Kral, Charlie Haden or Pat Metheny, the reality is that his name is the protagonist of his own career. 

After his meeting with Mancio (whom we also followed as an eclectic vocalist from the BBC Proms to Bobby McFerrin) they have traveled together years, continents and notes; it was Mancio who turned The Long Goodbye that Broadbent wrote as a member of the  Charlie Haden Quartet West  into The Last Goodbye .

In the themes that make up Quiet Is the Star we experience the various emotions that human relationships produce: family and romantic ties, visceral reactions as a human race or exclusively personal sensitive responses, and they achieve this by using the now  rare ability to transfer feelings that come together from both composer and lyricist, into a single work. 

In Quiet Is the Star the listener takes pleasure in artistic craftsmanship: in the profession of making songs, where melody and harmony seek to express something that ends with the polish of the lyricist’s work. 

In the book that accompanies the album (The  Songs Of Alan Broadbent & Georgia Mancio) the authors explain this understanding topic by topic. In fact, among the 94 pages of this publication illustrated by  Simon Manfield, we find the scores of the 33 songs that they have composed together throughout their collaboration.

If we take as an example his comments on the second title shared in this review ( Let Me Whisper To Your Heart ), we read that Broadbent’s music was composed as “an intimate memory of someone close and the notes produced by those feelings”, while Mancio  contributes, referring to the lyrics, these are made in memory of her mother, whom she talks about in the book in a way that, effectively manages to be reflected in the song.

Perhaps one of the unknowns regarding Quiet Is the Star for the future will be whether any (or several) of its songs will become a jazz standard. But, as we have reviewed in recent years, that will depend in a small part on the attachment of the public and, to a greater extent, on the natural response of the musicians themselves and the passage of time.

© Mirian Arbalejo