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Alan Broadbent Trio at the Deer Head Inn

Victor L. Schermer By

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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).

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