The nineteenth century author Gustave Flaubert was famous for his phrase le mot juste,
meaning "the right word." Flaubert believed in exactitude of expression, and his work is a testament to the harmony that results from precision. It's therefore not surprising that New Zealand pianist Phil Broadhurst has invoked the author on his superb Flaubert's Dance.
A master of subtle emotions, Broadhurst paints with a fine brush that captures a range of feelings, creating deeply nuanced music supported by wide knowledge and careful choices.
Just as Broadhurst's previous release Delayed Reaction
(Rattle, 2012) was an original work inspired by another musician, namely the great pianist Michel Petrucciani
, the eight songs on this project are also full of tributes. Broadhurst is a gifted composer, with a particular skill for interpreting and integrating a broad range of musical styles, and in this case his muses range from pianist Herbie Hancock
to drummer Manu Katche
to trumpeter Tomasz Stanko
. Because Broadhurst appreciates such an expansive palette of musicians, his music is equally far-reachingbut no matter what the origins, each tune is infused with Broadhurst's sparkling piano and an absolutely delicious swing.
The CD opens with "First Shot," an update of the rhythmic feel of "Toys" from Hancock's Speak Like a Child
(Blue Note, 1968). A laid-back piece with light, effervescent swing, it includes an elegant solo by Broadhurst and graceful lines by saxophonist Roger Manins
. Other highlights include "Flaubert's Dance," a pretty, wistful melody dedicated to pianist Enrico Pieranunzi
, which includes a strong solo by bassist Olivier Holland. "Straight and Narrow" is a gorgeous ballad with an undercurrent of sorrow, full of delicate lacework and exquisite tenderness, with sensitive brushwork by drummer Cameron Sangster.
"Stretched" invokes the joyful sounds of pianist Eliane Elias
: a bright, bold tune with wonderful rhythmic propulsion. Manins' lines are delightfully supple, and trumpeter Mike Booth's lively solo adds further color and depth. The CD ends with "Scoreless," dedicated to the Tomasz Stańko Quartet and inspired by the spirit of the venerable ECM label. A reflective song that unfolds at a thrillingly languid pace, it starts off with a simmering drum and bass duet, eventually joined by Broadhurst's luminous piano and Manins' lovely, relaxed tenor.
Prolific and sensitive, hard-working and curious, Broadhurst is a model of the jazz musician in full bloom. Flaubert's Dance
is an abundant work bursting with beauty and tenderness, with just the right notes throughout.