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Alan Broadbent
Alan Broadbent

Alan Broadbent is a renowned jazz pianist and composer whose illustrious career has spanned several decades. Born in New Zealand, Broadbent’s musical journey began at a young age, and his exceptional talent soon caught the attention of the jazz community. After relocating to the United States, he quickly became a highly sought-after pianist, collaborating with jazz legends such as Woody Herman, Charlie Haden, and Natalie Cole. His remarkable skills as an arranger and conductor have earned him multiple Grammy Awards, and he has been praised for his rich, sophisticated style that seamlessly blends traditional jazz elements with modern influences. Throughout his career, Broadbent has released a series of critically acclaimed albums as both a solo artist and with his trio, leaving an indelible mark on the jazz landscape. With a passion for teaching and mentoring young musicians, Broadbent continues to inspire and enchant jazz enthusiasts around the world.

Just a few days ago, we had the pleasure of sitting down with the illustrious jazz pianist, Alan Broadbent. In our candid conversation, we delved into his remarkable career, explored his latest projects, and got a sneak peek into what’s in store for his upcoming gig at Zinc.

Charles Carlini: Alan, your career in jazz has been nothing short of awe-inspiring, with countless accomplishments and unforgettable collaborations. Can you share a pivotal moment that has shaped your musical journey and approach to jazz?

Alan Broadbent: At the tender age of 15, I had my very first live encounter with jazz when I attended The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s performance at Town Hall in Auckland, NZ. Upon coming to the States in 1966, I had the privilege of studying under the guidance of Lennie Tristano before embarking on a musical journey with Woody Herman on the road. The early 90s marked a significant turning point in my career, thanks to Natalie Cole, who offered me a genuine opportunity to showcase my arranging skills on her albums Take A Look, Stardust, and Holly & Ivy. Around this time, I also became a proud member of Charlie Haden’s Quartet West, which led me to my first European tour.

CC: Your recent projects have received tremendous acclaim, showcasing your versatility as a jazz pianist and composer. Could you tell us about your latest work and the creative process behind it?

AB: There are two orchestra works that hold a special place in my heart: “Developing Story,” which was a labor of love that took many years to complete, and “Broadbent Plays Brubeck,” a tribute to Dave and his timeless compositions that still resonate with me today. These albums were brought to life under the guidance of the talented producer Ralf Kemper, whose unwavering support was invaluable.

More recently, I had the honor of having my grand orchestral piece, “Americana Suite,” performed in Germany. Although it may not fall under the jazz genre, it allowed me to showcase my profound love for the orchestra, my skill in orchestration and counterpoint, and, above all, my passion for crafting memorable melodies. In today’s contemporary music landscape, I believe that a genuine sense of melody is often missing, and I hope my work can offer a refreshing perspective to listeners.

CC: We’re eagerly looking forward to your upcoming show at Zinc on Tuesday, September 26. What can the audience expect from this performance? Are there any unique aspects or surprises you have planned for the night?

AB: My repertoire mainly revolves around the American Songbook, complemented by a handful of original pieces in that timeless style. Interestingly, I don’t rely on pre-set arrangements; instead, every performance with my trio is a fresh and spontaneous experience. For me, this embodies the essence of jazz—an art form that thrives on the beauty of improvisation. The three CDs I recently recorded alongside Harvie S and Billy Mintz for Savant Records beautifully exemplify this approach.

CC: Your ability to blend traditional jazz with modern influences is truly remarkable. Could you shed some light on how you navigate this fusion while staying true to the essence of jazz?

AB: Over the past 60 years, my approach to jazz improvisation has been organic, with no predetermined plan, allowing my unique sound to evolve along the way, for better or worse. I’ve never strived to be deliberately “modern,” though I draw inspiration from a diverse range of piano styles depending on the moment. Regardless of the musical path I take, my ultimate goal remains the same: to infuse each performance with a profound sense of swing, even when exploring ballad tempos. In the words of Tristano, “Jazz is not a style, it’s a feeling,” and that sentiment resonates deeply with me.

CC: Beyond your exceptional artistry on stage, you’ve been a guiding light for aspiring musicians. How significant is it for you to mentor and support the next generation of jazz talents?

AB: At NYU, I have the privilege of teaching piano improv and arranging. Students don’t seek me out for the latest trends or techniques; they come to find that timeless feeling that has been present since Louis Armstrong’s pioneering days—the art of rhythm, without which “jazz” loses its essence. As Mahler once emphasized, the true heart of music lies beyond the notes themselves.

In my view, too many pianists today simply sound like pianists, but from a young age, I instinctively understood that it’s about channeling the spirit of a horn player, creating melodic lines that sing and soar. This pursuit of individuality is what blossomed with the influence of the magical Bud Powell, transforming us pianists forever.

If I can impart this invaluable insight to my students and audiences alike, our lives will be forever enriched by the beauty of jazz and its enduring legacy.

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Alan, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for sharing your insights and experiences with us today. Your contribution to jazz music is immeasurable, and we can’t wait to witness your brilliance at Zinc on Tuesday, September 26. Click here to purchase tickets for this special event. To stay updated on Alan Broadbent’s latest projects and upcoming performances, visit his official website: http://alanbroadbent.com. Thank you again, and we eagerly anticipate an unforgettable evening of jazz at Zinc!

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