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CD: Alan Broadbent - Developing Story | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Alan Broadbent - Developing Story

CD: Alan Broadbent - Developing Story

The pianist's orchestral magnum opus is packed with extraordinary things

From lyrical ardour to swinging effervescence: Alan Broadbent

Hearing the London Metropolitan Orchestra ripping a hole in the silence with the impassioned opening theme of the three-movement "Developing Story", I’m not entirely convinced that the New Zealand-born, US-based pianist, composer and arranger Alan Broadbent doesn’t have any Russian blood flowing through his veins, despite the two-time Grammy winner's assurances to the contrary when I interviewed him last year.

For its sheer beauty of sound, from hushed simplicity to breathtaking climaxes – not to mention superb performances from both orchestra and Broadbent's jazz trio featuring bassist Harvie S and drummer Peter Erskine – the album's title track and principal work is one of the most richly atmospheric orchestral jazz scores you’re likely to hear. Whether it's the lyrical ardour of the central slow movement, which elicits one of many heartbreakingly lovely solos from Broadbent, or the swinging effervescence of the final movement, the work grips you to the very end. 

Tenor sax player Dexter Gordon called Tadd Dameron the "romanticist" of the bop movement, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Broadbent – surely the romanticist par excellence – should be attracted to the melodic beauty of Dameron’s blues-flavoured “If You Could See Me Now”, which shimmers here with a Ravelian elegance.

Opening with Mahlerian French horns, Broadbent’s arrangement of Coltrane’s “Naima” stands out as something extraordinarily special. The London Metropolitan Orchestra play out of their skins, with pianist and orchestra building to a coruscating climax of astonishing force.

Excerpted from the iconic Kind of Blue, “Blue in Green” provides another feast for the ears with a chart that captures both its apparent weightlessness and iridescence to perfection. Written by Broadbent for Quartet West, “Lady in the Lake” illustrates the expressive richness of his pianism, while the dazzling symphonic arrangement of Miles Davis’s “Milestones” has a bustle and energy that appears to channel Stravinsky’s Petrushka. Broadbent’s lullaby-like “Children of Lima” brings this absolute gem of an album to a close.

@MrPeterQuinn

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The dazzling symphonic arrangement of 'Milestones' has a bustle and energy that appears to channel Stravinsky’s Petrushka

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