Alan Broadbent has had two spectacular careers. As a jazz pianist, he recorded with Woody Herman, Irene Kral, Gary Foster, Don Menza, Don Rader among others in the 1970s. His first leadership album, Palette, was recorded in 1979. Through the years, he has continued to record in the solo, duo, trio and small-group formats, working at length with bassist Charlie Haden in the late 1980s and early '90s.
As an arranger, Broadbent has orchestrated for Natalie Cole (he won a Grammy for his arrangement of When I Fall in Love), Shirley Horn (he won a second Grammy for his arrangement of Lonely Town), Diana Krall, Paul McCartney and many other singers.
His latest album, Developing Story (Eden River Records), features his trio backed by the London Metropolitan Orchestra playing his pastoral arrangements. The album, with its piano flourishes and sweeping strings, has much in common with albums by composer-pianist Michel Legrand over the years. In this regard, Developing Story has an epic cinematic feel.
The first three tracks are individual movements of Broadbent's Developing Story, an idea that first came to him in the 1970s. Writes Broadbent in his liner notes: Things slowly took shape when I realized that rather than getting an orchestra to play with jazz feeling (it’ll never happen, I’m afraid), I could present it with a jazz trio version of the idea and perhaps the orchestra could help me out with some nice chords."
Jazz standards and originals follow with a supersized orchestral approach: Tad Dameron's If You Could See Me Now, John Coltrane's Naima, Bill Evans' Blue in Green, Miles Davis's Milestones and Broadbent's Lady in the Lake and The Children of Lima.
Joining Broadbent is Harvie S on bass and Peter Erskine on Drums. Broadbent also conducted the LMO at Abbey Roads Studios in London. Among my favorites is Milestones, which begins with a Gil Evans feel, shifts into Sauter-Finegan territory and continues to grow until it reaches soundtrack proportions. A fascinating arrangement.
Developing Story is a glorious, uplifting album that makes you feel you're in a sled being pulled by 100 horses. Bravo, Alan.