Arranger, Pianist Extraordinaire, Alan Broadbent has long been a major force behind the scenes in jazz, whether it was accompanying Irene Kral on some of the most exquisite vocal albums ever recorded, contributing arrangements to Natalie Cole or playing piano with Charlie Haden’s Quartet West. ‘Round Midnight, a trio set with bassist Brian Bromberg and drummer Joe LaBarbera, puts the focus on Broadbent’s skills as a pianist and improviser, and the result is one of his finest recordings to date.
Broadbent gained his initial recognition in the jazz world for his piano playing and arrangements during a three-year period with the Woody Herman Orchestra (1969-72). At the time, Blood, Sweat and Tears was a huge hit, playing jazz movements inside a rock and roll framework and it seemed like it would be very adaptable to Woody’s band. We wrote all of these new arrangements and the kids loved it because they knew the tunes, so Woody started having me write for him, suggesting that I write “Blues In The Night.” During his Herman years, Broadbent was nominated for Grammy Awards for his work on Children of Lima and Aja.
By 1972 Broadbent had tired of living on the band bus, so he gave his notice and moved to Los Angeles. After a period of struggle, he had a major break. “One afternoon in 1974 I got a call to come down to the Beverly Hilton that night for a big band dance gig. When I went down to the hotel, out walked Nelson Riddle and I realized I was with his band from the Frank Sinatra days! It included Shorty Sherock, Harry Klee, Wilbur Schwartz and Milt Bernhart, all those great guys. Nelson liked my playing and said that if I could read that well, I should be doing some of his television work. That was my entrance into the studio scene.” He worked as Riddle’s pianist for 10 years and was on many sessions headed by David Rose, Johnny Mandel and Henry Mancini.
Since that time, Alan Broadbent has performed and recorded in a countless number of settings. In addition to his studio work, he is prized by vocalists for his skills as an accompanist, working with, among others, Sheila Jordan, Sue Raney, Rosemary Clooney, Mel Torme, Karrin Allyson, Mary Stallings, Judy Niemack and Carol Sloane. However he is most famous for recording three timeless ballad albums with Irene Kral: Where Is Love, Kral Space and Gentle Rain, Through the years, Alan Broadbent has performed with the who’s who of West Coast jazz including Chet Baker, Warne Marsh, Scott Hamilton, Bud Shank, Shelly Manne, Bill Berry, Bill Perkins, Gary Foster, Bob Brookmeyer, Jack Sheldon, Don Menza and Pete Christlieb. He has been a member of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West since the mid-1980s.
As a leader of trios, Broadbent led dates in the past for such labels as Revelation, Discovery, Trend and Concord, including Better Days, Pacific Standard Time and Personal Standards. He also recorded a solo piano CD for Concord (Live at Maybeck Hall, Vol.14) as well as a duo CD with saxophonist Gary Foster, Live At Maybeck.
In addition to all of that work, Alan Broadbent has been active as an arranger and a conductor. “I received a call one day to go to a studio and there was Ray Brown and Jeff Hamilton. They wanted me to play ‘Straighten Up And Fly Right,’ so we did a take. To my surprise, out came Natalie Cole and, before I knew it, I was out on the road as part of her Unforgettable tour. I had an opportunity to write for her and we did three albums together (Take A Look, Holly and Ivy and Stardust),
Since then I’ve been writing for orchestras, most recently for a Steve Tyrell Sinatra project. I also worked on a jazz album with Linda Ronstadt and ended up conducting her concerts that used Nelson Riddle orchestrations which are supremely beautiful.” Broadbent has also collaborated with Diana Krall, working as her musical director. “I have known her since she was 19. She studied with me and I pulled out my Tristano stuff, having her sing Lester Young solos! I also will be conducting Elvis Costello’s ballet in Australia.” Alan also arranged and conducted Mel Torme’s Tribute to Bing Crosby(which gained a Grammy nomination for best arrangement accompanying a vocal, Scott Hamilton’s With Strings and Marian McPartland’s Silent Pool.
With all of that activity, a trio showcase such as ‘Round Midnight was long overdue, to remind listeners of Broadbent’s talents as an improvising jazz pianist. “I love the way that Joe and Brian play for me. It is an afternoon of my feelings, a snapshot of our meeting together.”
For the future, Alan Broadbent says, “I practice every day. As Lennie told me, I can’t go too far from the piano. My goal is always to move people. As long as I concentrate on what moves me, then I have a chance to affect people who feel deeply about this music.”
We paid special tribute to Catalina Popescu – one of the most amazing ladies in our industry. Please join us to help us say thank you to Catalina for all she has done for ASMAC, the LA Jazz Society, countless of other music organizations and hundreds of musicians who perform at Catalina’s every year!