All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Alan Broadbent Trio at the Deer Head Inn

Victor L. Schermer By

Sign in to view read count
Alan Broadbent Trio
Deer Head Inn
Delaware Water Gap, PA
August 11, 2018

Believe you me, it wasn't by choice that I hadn't been to the Dear Head Inn in a few years to take in some great jazz in its secluded setting on a wooded hill near the river at the edge of town in the Pocono Mountains. Despite its rural location, it has a musical history to rival New York's best venues. Circumstances hindered my getting there for a long time, but I seized a midsummer opportunity to go from Philadelphia to hear pianist Alan Broadbent in a Saturday evening slot accompanied by the ubiquitous and deeply artful Harvie S on bass and the masterful Billy Mintz on drums.

The Deer Head's tradition of jazz piano is unrivalled, beginning with the days when Keith Jarrett hung out and performed there, and the house pianist, the late John Coates, Jr. inspired Jarrett and everyone who heard him. Just ask Jarrett or Poconos resident David Liebman if you want a considered opinion about Coates. I was eager to hear what Broadbent and his cohorts could provide in that special setting.

I first heard New Zealand born Broadbent on the iconic recording of singer Irene Kral's 1977 sets at the Half Moon Bay club on the Monterey Peninsula (Irene Kral Live, Just Jazz, 2000) , in which Kral's delivery of "Here's That Rainy Day" is one of the most stunning renditions of a ballad ever captured for posterity. I was taken by the sensitivity and depth of Broadbent's piano accompaniment on that album, and his name often ran through my head as someone whose playing I wished I heard more. Somehow, I lost track of him, only to recently find that over time, he raced right past me to become one of the pantheon of great jazz pianists, with a multitude of recordings as a leader, a couple of Grammy's, and on top of that, composing, arranging, and conducting with stellar artists like Diana Krall, Paul McCartney, the NDR Big Band, Charlie Haden, Shirley Horn, and so many other instantly recognizable names. Who knew? Like a blind man learning that he could have his vision restored, I was eager to see and hear someone whose pianistic "voice" had become strangely familiar through one singular experience.

Watching Broadbent hanging out before the show, and later speaking with him briefly, I thought I understood why he escaped me for so long. His demeanor, in a comfortable suit, gentle speech, and diffident facial expression, was that of a modest but distinguished gentleman, not at all a hipster jazz musician. Seeing him reminded me of a story told by the poet W.H. Auden. At a point in his career when he was the talk of the New York literary scene, he was going somewhere in the subway, and overheard a man saying, "Wow! Is that the great poet, W.H. Auden?" Auden leaned over to him and said quietly, "Yes, dear, it is!" Broadbent carries himself and plays like someone who has set aside his ego for the sole purpose of making music. As he said among his other highly intelligent remarks to the audience, "The purpose of my performing is to communicate something that touches others emotionally, and sometimes it might become a work of art." He and his cohorts delivered on both in this show.

The two sets consisted of an assortment of standards, ballads punctuated by bebop and other up tempo tunes, and only at the end did Broadbent modestly include two of his originals. His playing was straight ahead, but he gave each song something different from the norm in the way of interpretation. He was endlessly inventive, and he incorporated diverse styles within a carefully guided structure. Harvey S's bass and Mintz's drums coordinated well with the pianist, but their solos were uniquely their own and at times magical in their effects.

After an enchanting beginning with a version of "How Deep is the Ocean" which had a feeling of a film score, the group went into high gear with "Crazeology," a bebop tune which allowed for some rapid fire improvising. Instead of the usual "fours," Broadbent traded "eights" with Mintz, giving more room for improvising, a great idea that could be employed more frequently by other groups. Broadbent introduced the ballad "What is There to Say" with the interesting fact that the name of its composer, Vernon Duke, was the pseudonym of Vladimir Dukelsky, who was a fellow student with Igor Stravinsky at the Moscow Conservatory. He then showed that Louis Armstrong's first wife Lil Hardin's "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" could be taken out of the 1920s archives and given a contemporary flavor. A good example of bait and switch on a tune was "My Funny Valentine," which was taken up tempo with an emphasis on the chord structure rather than the melody and lyrics as typically done. Harvie S redeemed the lyrics by throwing his heart into a deeply felt bass solo, followed again by Mintz trading eights with Broadbent. The bassist came through once more in "Stairway to the Stars" with another heartfelt solo, putting his whole body and facial expression to work and gripping the bass with passion. By contrast, when accompanying his cohorts, drummer Mintz worked wonders by playing so softly that you didn't so much hear as feel him comping. This approach brought out the power of Broadbent's piano work, giving lots of room for expression.

The set closed with two bop standards, Charlie Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes" and Gigi Gryce's "Minority," the latter done in a way that made for a worthy comparison with my favorite version by Kenny Barron.

After a short break, the second set proceeded with a more elaborate but nonetheless expressive version of "Poinciana" than Ahmad Jamal's iconic renditions. Then Mintz delivered a superb drum solo on Bud Powell's "Visa," emphasizing the spaces between percussive hits on the snare drums and tom toms, coming close to inventing a new way of using the drums to achieve a sense of subjective expression of "time present and time past... both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past" (T.S. Eliot).

Broadbent did romantic versions of "You Don't Know What Love Is" and the less frequently performed "I Never Knew." He closed the evening with two originals. The first was "The Long Goodbye," inspired by the film with that title, but not to be confused with the movie's theme song composed by Johnny Mercer and John Williams. The set concluded with Broadbent's "Clifford Notes," which invoked the feeling and motifs of Clifford Brown's legacy.

Broadbent stayed around after his cohorts packed up and left, and then did something I have rarely experienced, but must have happened often before small club jazz became highly monetized. He sat down at the piano and freely improvised. It was just another way for a true gentleman of jazz to make an affectionate gesture to the piano played by so many greats and to the audience which was already awestruck by the depth and resilience of his interpretations throughout the evening.

Personnel: Alan Broadbent: piano and leader; Harvie S: bass; Billy Mintz: drums.

Set Lists: I. How Deep is the Ocean; Crazeology; What is There to Say?; Struttin' with Some Barbeque; My Funny Valentine; Stairway to the Stars; My Little Suede Shoes; Minority. II. Poinciana; Visa (Bud Powell); You Don't Know What Love Is; I Never Knew; The Long Goodbye (Broadbent); Clifford Notes (Broadbent).


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018 Live Reviews
The Magpie Salute At The Grand Point North Festival 2018
by Doug Collette
Published: September 23, 2018
Read Chris Isaak at The Paramount in Huntington, NY Live Reviews
Chris Isaak at The Paramount in Huntington, NY
by Christine Connallon
Published: September 23, 2018
Read Detroit Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Detroit Jazz Festival 2018
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 19, 2018
Read Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner Live Reviews
Beethoven, Barber and Vivaldi at The Jazz Corner
by Martin McFie
Published: September 18, 2018
Read Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia 2018 Live Reviews
Bryan Ferry at the Macedonian Philharmonic Hall, Macedonia...
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 16, 2018
Read Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood Vampires, Black Asteroids & Paul Lamb Live Reviews
Live From Birmingham: Dinosaur, Meatraffle, Hollywood...
by Martin Longley
Published: September 16, 2018
Read "Gary Peacock Trio at the Jazz Standard" Live Reviews Gary Peacock Trio at the Jazz Standard
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: November 14, 2017
Read "Kyle Taylor Parker at The Green Room 42" Live Reviews Kyle Taylor Parker at The Green Room 42
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 17, 2018
Read "Lee Konitz 90th Birthday Celebration at Regatta Bar" Live Reviews Lee Konitz 90th Birthday Celebration at Regatta Bar
by Steve Provizer
Published: February 13, 2018
Read "John Brackett Quartet at Redfish Restaurant" Live Reviews John Brackett Quartet at Redfish Restaurant
by Martin McFie
Published: November 30, 2017
Read "E. J. Strickland Quintet At Scullers Jazz Club" Live Reviews E. J. Strickland Quintet At Scullers Jazz Club
by Nat Seelen
Published: October 3, 2017
Read "Alan Broadbent Trio at the Deer Head Inn" Live Reviews Alan Broadbent Trio at the Deer Head Inn
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: August 15, 2018