WBGO Radar

Alan Broadbent & The NDR Big Band: America The Beautiful

Alan Broadbent's CD America The Beautiful

Alan Broadbent is first rate - as a pianist, composer and arranger. His approach to his instrument grabs you right away: it's been documented on solo and trio recordings, through his integral role in Charlie Haden's Quartet West and as pianist/arranger with the Woody Herman band.

Coming from his home in New Zealand to Boston's Berklee College of Music, Broadbent went on to work with Johnny Mandel, Nelson Riddle and David Rose. His touch was also felt on Natalie Cole's Unforgettable and Diana Krall's Live In Paris recordings.

We have been fortunate to behold Alan's significant musical visions, through his orchestral arrangements and jazz improvisation.

America The Beautiful, Broadbent’s new recording on Jan Matthies Records, joins his considerable skills with those of the NDR Big Band, the Hamburg Radio Jazz Orchestra, for a tour de force.

The opener, "Between The Lines", is a Broadbent interpretation of the Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker intro to "All The Things You Are", swinging straight ahead with pianist and orchestra giving us reason to stay tuned.

"Sonata For Swee'Pea" nods to Billy Strayhorn, a lifelong inspiration for Broadbent .

"Woody 'N' Me" is an homage to former employer Woody Herman, who Alan says is "still one of the hippest human beings I ever met." Herman's tough life comes to life in this gorgeous and moving tribute.

Being true to music that moves him and motivates his life gets a musical picture with "Covenant," with the pianist developing variations surrounded by his lush orchestration.

You could hear this one in a film. "The Long White Cloud" has Broadbent reminiscing the view from the boat that took him away from his homeland in New Zealand.

This one is also a special feature for reedman Christoph Lauer of the NDR. "Love In Silent Amber" gets a new look from it's origin in the Herman band, written by Alan in his early twenties.

Alan looked to the feel of pianist Sonny Clark with "Sonny's Step". Broadbent says he was always moved by Clark's swinging feel, and does it justice here.

Broadbent wrote "Mendocino Nights" as a loving tribute to wife Alison, giving this one a take me in your arms and dance feel. This one makes us all wish we were musicians, especially when we can't find that right card for someone who really counts.

I have witnessed a live performance of the spectaular closer, Alan's “America The Beautiful,” which has the personal feel of a cross-country trip, with its many landscapes touched by generosity of spirit. The theme, originally hidden, comes to the front in rich harmony.

As Alan Broadbent says, "I have an aversion to being clever. I prefer the music coming out of me to be free of affectation and manipulation, yet with an emotional curve evolving out of the music and my feelings."

After one listen the surroundings seem somewhat more special. I assure the listener Alan Broadbent and the NDR have a recording deserving all the richness and soul searching which is apparent on America The Beautiful, which comes out April 23rd.

      - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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