Birdland, Neuberg, 5 October 2019
There are musicians that everyone knows, but very few know. Anyone who has ever heard a song by Diana Krall, Natalie Cole or Paul McCartney should have heard of the pianist, composer, conductor and arranger Alan Broadbent. He is one of those who pulls the strings in the background. After all, he received two Grammys for it. So when he presents his own music this evening at Birdland, a real musical heavyweight sits on the Bösendorfer grand piano, one that the Los Angeles Times simply calls “one of the best living jazz pianists”.
He does not, however, demonstrate his virtuosity continuously, but directs the audience’s full attention to his compositions. Broadbent has a wonderfully differentiated touch, everything is light and clear with him, his ornamentation is almost enchanting. But that’s only a marginal point. The focus is on these little treasures, the subtly set, breathy ballads, these fragile midtempo pieces that one would think originated in the thirties or forties of the last century, although they have only just been written for Broadbent’s personal “Songbook”, the second part of which will soon be released on CD. Three of these pieces, as Georgia Mancio explains, will even be world premiered that evening at Birdland.
While Phil Steen circles the double bass in the background with a warm, round tone that perfectly matches the piano, the singer from London is the band’s second fixed point next to the pianist. The shading, the respective expression of her voice, the content of the lyrics and Broadbent’s arrangements make every composition an absolutely rounded thing. With her clear, powerful voice, which easily approaches that of the great divas of jazz, she is virtually predestined to translate the moods expressed linguistically and musically through the lyrics and the notes. When Georgia Mancio sings a melancholic song, you hear and feel the inner sympathy.
The songs this evening in Birdland are based on the great evergreens of jazz history and certainly have the potential to become such themselves. Broadbent expresses this rather modestly to his enraptured listening audience. “It would make us happy if you could remember one or two melodies. At least until tomorrow morning,” he says. For all those who run the risk of losing their bearings due to the abundance of acoustic delicacies on offer, the mentioned “songbooks” are recommended. To bridge the waiting time until these great songs one day become standards and thus common property. Because that is to be reckoned with in any case.