Something Else (US)

Alan Broadbent and Georgia Mancio have collaborated over many years, and Quiet Is the Star confirms their growing international reputation. The album – which follows their first album of originals, 2017’s Songbook – is being released to coincide with the publication of The Songs of Alan Broadbent and Georgia Mancio, a book of their 33 original songs.

Together, these nine co-written songs explore the ties we weave in life – those of sister, mother, lover, and that of wider humanity.

The opening “I Can See You Passing By” is a number of observation and reminiscence. Mancio delivers the melody with feeling and the lyrics are crystal clear. The gentle piano accompaniment is a perfect background against which the voice is shown in its fullness. Broadbent’s solo piano section is almost tender and successfully translates the sense of lost love. The poignancy of the ending is heartfelt.

“When You’re Gone From Me” opens with a soft, gentle piano solo, setting the mood for the sensual track which follows. Georgia Mancio’s entry is almost tentative and the lyrics, telling of longing and wondering, the sense of nothing matters when the subject of the song has gone. Yet there is also the sense of looking forward, finding sweet roses, hearing birdsong and feeling strong sunlight, of years which once went slowly now passing by in the blink of an eye.

The piano, always gentle and somehow almost courteous to the vocals, uplifts the melodic charm of the song further, with some deeper, as darker notes added for emphasis under the piquancy of the lyrics. “When You’re Gone From Me” was originally composed by Alan Broadbent when he was 16, and the track now finds it completion with the addition of the beautiful lyrics almost 55 years later.

“Let Me Whisper to Our Heart” is a beautifully crafted song with a similar simplicity of piano and vocals working together to create a setting which is enhanced by the lyrics. It was inspired by a letter from Mancio’s late mother and speaks of never ending bonds, ties which last through life and beyond: “Let me whisper to your heart, where you end, now I will start – to find you.” It is a song of love, of nurturing and caring about someone, giving them tailored advice, knowing when to speak and when to not. All these things will bind the singer and the subject together” “Let me whisper as you go, ‘I’ll find you.’” The piano echoes the melodic lines and adds improvisation around the keys which is inspired.

“Tell the River” is dedicated to Sandra Bland, a woman who died in police custody, and goes straight to the heart with its message of love for those left behind: “Tell the ones that follow on, they’re worthy. ‘Til the time they overcome, our spirits must believe.” This song is one of comfort and hope for freedom; the piano echoes the pain and also the hope in the lyrics and melody. Strangely uplifting in spite of the story which inspired it, “Tell the River” is a thing of beauty.

“All My Life” is a story of hidden worlds, imagined worlds and possibilities. A song written for Georgia Mancio’s sister, this will hit the right spot with many siblings – the trials, the shocks of growing up, the strong ties which remain unbroken – it is all here. “If I Think of You” is about hope, the future and the joy that thinking of certain individuals can give us. It is about connection, the way things bring memories flooding back with all their sadness, heartache but also touched with joy and hope.

“Night After Night” begins with piano in lower octaves which sets the darker tone of the number. The lyric tells of the loneliness of night and how thoughts seek solace when the room feels dark, our minds looking for answers and solutions. Mancio, in a lower register, is moving and clear. Alan Broadbent’s piano introduces a minor key to the solo, which emphasizes the slightly unsettling nature of the darkness in which the singer finds herself. A clever and sumptuous number. “If My Heart Should Love Again” is about looking forward, and the possibilities of loving again. Yet, the memory of a dearly loved one will still be there: “If my heart should love again, it would still hold a place to remember your smile.”

The title song then opens with major piano chords which continue under Mancio’s entry, as she tells of the temporary, fragile nature of life and its shortness. The vocals are so clear, you can hear the intake of breath. Meanwhile, Broadbent’s piano knows just when to ebb and flow in unison with the emotion of the lyrics. It’s a lovely way to finish the album.

From their initial performances together in 2013, Mancio and Broadbent have matured and grown together to form a unique and dynamic partnership. That’s delightfully showcased in The Songs of Alan Broadbent & Georgia Mancio, a 94-page publication with beautiful, bespoke watercolor artwork from Simon Manfield, whose delicate and impressive art echoes the sentiments contained within the songs. The book is a pictured journey of delights, from the opening sketch of two hands joined in friendship to the individual comments on the songs, to the full-page illustrations which introduce some of the songs and the sketches of footprints (two pairs), a boy and girl at play, not a care in the world and the concentration on the face of the pianist. It is a beautiful creation.

Yet it is the music of the pair which expresses so perfectly the depth of their connection. Quiet Is the Star is of the heart: It is about life, our connections, our joy and sadness, the love we feel for others and the poignancy which enters our lives as we age, have different experiences and create ties of many kinds.

The connection between Alan Broadbent and Georgia Mancio is something special, and never feels contrived or forced. There is a natural flow, a sense of the pianist picking up the precise nature of Mancio’s delivery, her interpretation of the lyrics and their meaning. Broadbent’s playing underlines and re-enforces Mancio’s meaning. There is nothing showy or over flamboyant in these songs, yet there is a voluptuousness and richness which the listener cannot help but feel. “Tell the River,” in particular, is a song to cry to and also to find hope within.

The result is one voice and one piano, paired in a single dialogue.