Alan Broadbent

Alan Broadbent is a long-standing figure behind jazz’s scenes. He was there to accompany Irene Kral on one of the most beautiful vocal albums ever recorded, or contribute arrangements to Natalie Cole. Alan Broadbent was born in Auckland, New Zealand. He recalls two crucial moments in his musical growth. “When I was seven years old, I was playing the piano for a while. I used to look forward to Sunday morning Children’s Radio Program to see if Sparky and his Magic Piano were on. Sparky, who didn’t practice, got a piano that worked. His magic piano plays anything he wishes, and he goes on concert tours with it. He performed Chopin’s Etude #4, C Sharp Minor Op. 10′ is a fast, technical piece that is intense and compact. It was the first time I felt music’s power beyond the notes. As a teenager I was able to read my father’s sheet music, and learn many of the standard songs. I was fortunate enough to be able to see the Dave Brubeck quartet in New Zealand. Paul Desmond and Brubeck opened the concert with ‘Tangerine’, a song I was familiar with, or at least the sheet music. It was an amazing moment, and it inspired me to be a jazz musician. As a teenager, he moved to New Zealand and began playing with other experienced players. They taught him the basics of jazz time and how it feels, mostly through Wynton Kelly. He was then introduced to the great improvisers that influenced his style. Broadbent, then 19, embarked on a 32-day trip aboard the S.S. Maasdam from England to study at Berklee College Of Music. He worked at a local club while he was studying at Berklee and also took private lessons from LennieTristano. Every week, he traveled to New York on his school days. “Lennie was initially hesitant about me, but he soon realized that I had a deep love for his music and wanted to work hard. He made me sing Lester Young solos for 2 years while I worked on his exercises. He became a good friend and taught me a lot about my life. Broadbent was first recognized in jazz for his arrangements and piano playing during his three-year tenure with the Woody Herman Orchestra (1969-72). Although I loved being part of his band, everything I learned at Berklee was useless because it didn’t work for Woody’s group! Blood, Sweat and Tears, a jazz-rock and roll band, was huge at the time. It seemed to be very adaptable for Woody’s band. We were playing at Army bases and country clubs, and the book wasn’t that great. Tony Klatka and Bill Stapleton suggested that we write some more modern songs for Woody, as there was a prom. The kids loved the new arrangements, and Woody asked me to write the “Blues In The Night” song. Broadbent’s composition “Children of Lima”, and Steely Dan’s “Aja” were nominated for Grammy Awards during his Herman years. The pianist says that he asks the trio what they’d like to hear on his recordings. I had a list of original tunes I wanted to record for ‘Round Midnight. However, that list is always subject to change. It was completely spontaneous and I didn’t have any preconceived notions. I prefer to focus on the interplay of the musicians and listen to them. Joe LaBarbera has been a friend of mine since Woody Herman’s days. He joined Bill Evans in the early 1980s. His exceptional taste, ability swing with ease and quick reactions are well-known. Brian Bromberg was a friend I met at a Lee Ritenour jazz concert in the 1990s. He is a true virtuoso, and it’s always a joy to play with him.” Despite being a spontaneous set, ‘Round Midnight has a cohesive and logical playing due to the large ears and quick reactions by the three musicians. The program opens with Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Groovin’ High’, “Serenata”, and J.J. Johnson’s ‘Lament’. Broadbent’s unique chord voicings, impeccable octave play and exceptional accompaniment skills are evident (heard behind Bromberg’s occasional solos). The music of Vienna is the subject of his harmonically rich and poetic “Die Vereinbarung”, a song that has a beautiful melody. He also wrote “Journey Home”, about his early days in New Zealand. Its catchy, relaxed theme is very catchy. The chord changes are particularly appealing for musicians to use. The song “I’m Old Fashioned”, which Broadbent interprets with great creativity, keeps the melody in mind and is a very inventive rendition. Broadbent was asked to choose a favorite performance from the set. Broadbent chose “Round Midnight”, which was nominated as Best Improvised Solo on the Grammys. However, the closing track of the set, “The Man I Love”, is equally worthy. “I have a few favorite moments on the disc that I like. This is a great example of how we play together, and it is also one of my personal favorites. – from (Bio Credit: Scott Yanow)

Leave a Comment