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You thought that bebop is a curatorial exercise – that it’s no longer a living music? Think again. Alan Broadbent, one of the greatest living jazz pianists, doesn’t particularly like the word ‘bebop’, but insists that it’s ‘the primary life force for me’. He says: ‘Th e epitome of that time-feeling was given to piano players by Bud Powell’.

Broadbent is one of the last and greatest students of modern jazz guru Lennie Tristano. According to Broadbent, Tristano taught the importance of jazz fundamentals: ‘To be aware of every note, full value, the tone you’re making, with the metronome at 60.’ There’s not a note in Broadbent’s playing that’s not heard or felt, not one that fails to make sense musically, expressing what Bill Evans called the science of building an improvised line. His idiom is accessible postbop with Tristanoite subtleties that invite further reflection.

Born in 1947 in Auckland, New Zealand, Broadbent was just 19 when he won a Downbeat scholarship to attend Berklee College in Boston. He became a student of Tristano, then joined Woody Herman’s band in 1969 as pianist and arranger. He subsequently worked with singer Irene Kral, and composer-arrangers Nelson Riddle and Johnny Mandel. In the 1990s Broadbent began his long partnership with bassist Charlie Haden on Quartet West. He’s also recorded with Lee Konitz.

New York Notes was recorded in Broadbent’s home studio with longtime musical partners, bassist Harvie S – for ‘Swartz’ (he got fed up with the mis-spellings) – and drummer Billy Mintz, who’s often on brushes. It’s a totally simpatico trio. The album opens with Broadbent’s minor-key original ‘Clifford Notes’, written last year in dedication to trumpeter Clifford Brown, which reveals the pianist to be a fine jazz composer. He learned Gigi Gryce’s ‘Minority’ from Everybody Digs Bill Evans, the master’s early and most boppish album, and offers a beautifully lucid, sustained commentary on Evans’ classic. Also featured are Benny Harris’ ‘Crazeology’, Tadd Dameron’s ‘On a Misty Night’ and Tristano’s ‘317 East 32nd Street’, based on ‘Out of Nowhere’. Other originals are ‘Continuity’ and ‘Waltz Prelude’, based on Chopin’s Prelude in F-sharp minor Op 28/8. The result is a late bebop classic.

ANDY HAMILTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2019 - ©Rhinegold Publishing