While growing up, my only real musical training was on the clarinet, but as an adult I decided that I wanted to learn to play the piano — and it did not go well. I kept hammering at it and was finally able to get to the point where I could play some simple melodies, but I could never get past the requirement that my eyes (and brain) were expected to continuously follow and interpret two separate sets of musical notes – one for each hand – at the same time. And if that wasn’t hard enough, my feet also had to do their thing down on the pedals. Sheesh.
Given that experience, it’s not surprising that I have a lot of admiration for skilled pianists, and one of the best is the subject of this review, Alan Broadbent, who has just released a new album titled Every Time I Think Of You. Originally out of New Zealand, the grammy-nominated Broadbent has been around the US music scene for over thirty years, and his background includes stints as a writer, performer, and arranger with musicians as varied as Woody Herman, Nelson Riddle, Henry Mancini and Natalie Cole. (And he lists among his influences her father, Nat.)
As a sideman, a soloist, or with his own group, he’s appeared on a number of albums through the years, and his newest one is an equal mix of standards and original works. There is quite a bit of diversity among these songs, and the album has been described as being “steeped in emotion and romanticism”, but it’s simpler to just say that it sounds very, very good. He’s joined by the other members of his trio, bassist Brian Bromberg and drummer Kendall Kay, and has added the Tokoyo Strings to give a lush, full sound to the music, especially the title tune.
Some of the standards include Gershwin’s romantic “Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess”, and the song Billie Holiday made famous, “Lover Man”. His originals include “Woody And Me”, written by Broadbent to recognize his fondness for Woody Herman (his “road father”), and “E 32nd Elegy”, a purely jazz piece written as a tribute to Lennie Tristano.
My favorite of Broadbent’s original compositions is the song I’m sampling for you. It’s a piece that reminds me a lot of one of those Mancini compositions from the days when he was writing music for practically every movie out there, and since Broadbent spent some time working with him it’s entirely possible that he was inspired by him on this one. It’s melody with a latin beat called “Nirvana Blues”, a song I like a lot.
I listened to this CD several times and found something to like in every song, but a couple of them do seem to occasionally wander a little, breaking up the flow and perhaps making the whole song a little less than the sum of its parts. The Miles Davis/Bill Evans song “Blue In Green” comes to mind as one that can’t seem to always make up its mind where it’s going, but maybe that’s just me. Still, that’s a very mild criticism and I would recommend this album for anyone who enjoys quality jazz piano from someone at the top of his game.