Introduced by the great Ian Shaw, a sold out Ronnie Scott's heard what was, unequivocally, one of the gigs of the year. It would be difficult to imagine a collection of original songs in which music and lyrics combine so appositely as Songbook, the new album by Grammy-winning pianist, composer and arranger Alan Broadbent and acclaimed vocalist and lyricist Georgia Mancio.
From the touching album opener 'The Journey Home' to the exquisite melancholy of 'The Last Goodbye', the first song the duo worked on together, the collection proved itself to be a quite stunning achievement, one which succeeds entirely in being both of its time and yet timeless. With other highlights including 'Close to the Moon' and the deliciously circuitous melodic line of 'Cherry Tree', with Broadbent conjuring up torrents of notes, the first set presented a masterclass in how best to frame a song. Bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Dave Ohm provided superb, simpatico accompaniment throughout, as understated as it was artful – small wonder that Broadbent was so effusive in his praise of their playing when I interviewed him for Jazzwise.
It was also an evening of firsts: Mancio's debut as a headliner at Ronnie's and, amazingly, Broadbent's first ever appearance at the club. Set two opened with one of the evening's standouts, 'Hide Me from the Moonlight', in which the bittersweet, yearning sensuousness of Broadbent's pianism summoned up the ghosts of Bill Evans and Sergei Rachmaninov, while enveloping Mancio's alluringly sustained melodic line. With judiciously varied tempos, the set also featured the terpsichorean delights of the jazz waltz, 'Forever', the quickfire wordplay of 'One For Bud', and the bossa nova 'Where The Soft Winds Blow', originally penned by Broadbent at the tender age of 17.
Dedicated to the much-loved character actor Peter Vaughan, Ohm's father, who passed away in December last year, the evening came to a moving close with the hauntingly beautiful 'Lullaby for MM'. Heartfelt, intimate and engaging, this was one of those memorable nights where the music-making was completely transporting. Every lover of song will want to add Mancio and Broadbent's tour de force to their collection.
– Peter Quinn
– Photos by Carl Hyde