REVIEW: ‘Quiet Is The Star’ – Georgia Mancio & Alan Broadbent

HAVE YOU EVER peered into the midnight-blue yonder to pick out its brightest astral personalities, and then watched in awe as endless constellations begin to unfold before your eyes? A metaphor, perhaps, for the magical, prolific songwriting and performing collaboration of vocalist/lyricist Georgia Mancio and pianist/composer Alan Broadbent, revealing still more wonder in new release Quiet Is The Star.

Following a chanced-upon opportunity in 2013 to perform together as a duo, Mancio and Broadbent began to build a collection of co-written material, some of which the double Grammy award-winning pianist had penned, many years ago, as wordless instrumental pieces waiting for wings. All was revealed in 2017’s glorious Songbook – its quartet line-up completed by double bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Dave Ohm – and this successful pairing of authoritative musicianship and heartfelt poetry kindled an ongoing creative partnership which has led to a current total of 33 songs in the tradition of timeless jazz standards (all newly published in a desirable lead-sheet songbook*).

The nine numbers of Quiet Is The Star find the two artists in their pure, alchemic environment of pianist and vocalist, exposing the structure, detail and elegance of sensitively-crafted songs whose themes reflect love, loss, family, friendship and empathy. Georgia Mancio’s ability to complement Alan Broadbent’s music with the perfect lyric, and then deliver it either at breathtaking speed or with lush, romantic eloquence, never wanes. This selection focuses largely on the latter, with a fine, balladic style redolent of, say, Rodgers and Hart or Johnny Mercer.

Such comparison can be heard in the sunshiny yet lost-love resignation of I Can See You Passing By (“No need to say hello when it’s goodbye”) or the fond, sisterly recollections breezily portrayed in All My Life (“I think of that child, all her thoughts running wild with exhilaration … you will listen to me, take my side, let me see all the things that I still can be”). Let Me Whisper To Your Heart continues the close-family theme with its emotive but sweet legacy of beautiful images (“Let me welcome each sunrise … and find you”), while elegant Tell The River expresses a deep desire for justice and freedom (“Tell my children to grow strong and healthy … tell them you will find me free”).

An early Alan Broadbent tune, bluesily ornamented, conveys When You’re Gone From Me’s expression of hope in adversity through an autumnal sense of longing (russet shades of Michel Legrand), with poignant, shadowy Night After Night sharing that search for positivity; and in If I Think Of You, Georgia Mancio’s heartfelt phrases (“Every road is clear and true, if I think of you”) perfectly adorn its touchingly warm piano melodies and harmonies. Time after time, these are songs whose joint mastery suggests they have already become established in a much-loved stage show or movie musical, an impression heard again within the graceful, reassuring glow of If My Heart Should Love Again. To close, Quiet Is The Star’s twinkling lap displays a supremely exquisite and quietly affecting marriage of words and music: “I see the sky, I watch the birds go by. They seem to tell us: we too can find which way to follow, which ties to bind” – encouragement indeed that, amidst life’s tribulations, all will be well.

The particular character, intonation and accuracy of Georgia Mancio’s voice makes it one of the most compelling I’ve known, infusing and shaping every phrase with honesty and emotion; and her artistic alliance with Alan Broadbent grows ever stronger. Look into this album’s glinting treasures. Reflected there, especially in these days, is beauty to hold dear.

Quiet Is The Star is released on 27 March 2021 and available in CD and digital formats at Bandcamp and Georgia Mancio’s website.

*The Songs of Georgia Mancio & Alan Broadbent songbook is published on 27 March 2021 and available from Georgia Mancio’s website.

 

Georgia Mancio voice, lyrics
Alan Broadbent piano, music

Illustration by Simon Manfield

georgiamancio.com
alanbroadbent.com

Roomspin Records – 2020 (2021)

REVIEW: ‘Our New Earth’ – Sirkis/Bialas IQ (2CD)

IN HIS LINER NOTES to Our New Earth, esteemed drummer Bill Bruford references the dual basis of this 2CD release from the Sirkis/Bialas IQ (International Quartet): the challenge of improving our turbulent world, and an exploratory approach to music – “you don’t play what you practiced anymore”.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released 20 November 2019 and available as CD or digital download at MoonJune Records.

 

Asaf Sirkis drums, crotales, konnakol, manjira, frame drums
Sylwia Bialas voice, waterphone, overtone singing, konnakol, lyrics
Frank Harrison piano, keyboards
Kevin Glasgow six-string electric bass

MoonJune Records – MJR099 (2019)

REVIEW: ‘Minor Moments’ (EP) – Laura Zakian

LONDON-BASED JAZZ VOCALIST and educator Laura Zakian has released four solo albums to date, the most recent – 2014’s Songs for Modern Lovers – including in its line-up pianist Steve Lodder, double bassist Simon Thorpe, drummer Nic France and baritone saxophonist Paul Bartholomew. For new project and EP release Minor Moments she returns with that same quartet – but, notably, it marks her creative collaboration with vibraphonist, percussionist and composer Martin Pyne.

Read my full review at LondonJazz News…

Released on 13 May 2019, the EP is available at Bandcamp, Amazon, iTunes, etc.

 

Laura Zakian voice, lyrics
Steve Lodder piano
Simon Thorpe bass
Nic France drums
Paul Bartholomew baritone saxophone
Martin Pyne percussion, composition

laurazakian.com
tallguyrecords.com

Tall Guy Records (2019)

REVIEW: ‘Thought You Knew’ – Snowpoet

ThoughtYouKnew

THE IMMERSIVE experience of Snowpoet’s eponymous 2016 debut album left a lasting imprint…

Read my full review at LondonJazz News.

Released on 9 February 2018 and available in CD, digital and vinyl formats from Edition Records at Bandcamp.

 

Lauren Kinsella vocals, backing vocals, lyrics
Chris Hyson electric bass, double bass, piano, synths
Nicholas Costley-White acoustic guitar
Matthew Robinson piano
Dave Hamblett drums
Josh Arcoleo saxophone
with
Alice Zawadzki violin
Francesca Ter-Berg cello
Lloyd Haines drums, percussion (tracks 1, 2 and 7)

Produced by Chris Hyson

snowpoet.co.uk

Edition Records – EDN1105 (2018)

‘Songbook’ – Georgia Mancio & Alan Broadbent

Songbook

THOSE MOMENTS when, no matter how much of a lifetime’s river of music has passed under the bridge, the eyes involuntarily well up and an electrical impulse charges down the spine… they can only be the sign of something artistically and emotionally significant.

A project which originated in 2013 and has since toured a number of times, Songbook is the work of double Grammy award-winning pianist, composer and arranger Alan Broadbent and sublime vocalist and lyricist Georgia Mancio. A chanced-upon opportunity to perform together, as a duo, blossomed into a magical songwriting collaboration, with Broadbent revealing more and more of his existing instrumental compositions for Mancio to complete with imaginative, poetic storytelling. Their mutual enthusiasm for Great American Songbook writers such as Rodgers and Hart cemented a creative, thematic empathy which shapes this album of twelve new songs with unique beauty and warmth – so much so that, consequently, each one has a ‘timeless standard’ identity redolent of, say, Cole Porter or Jerome Kern.

Supported by the subtly-nuanced and precise rhythm section of double bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Dave Ohm, the finesse of Broadbent’s piano and Mancio’s immaculately controlled voice sparkle throughout with expressions of joy, humour, tenderness and melancholy. Alan Broadbent’s lush arrangements (having worked on a larger scale over the decades with the likes of Irene Kral, Woody Herman, Natalie Cole and Diana Krall) are just as eloquent in this chamber setting.

Georgia Mancio enfolds each episode of this collection with both technical security and, just as importantly, an obvious affection. She possesses one of the most inviting, endearing voices on the current scene, illuminating The Journey Home‘s soft swing with clarity and elegance, then adding pizzazz to shuffling bossa tune Someone’s Sun; and Broadbent’s chordal and melodic deftness complements the vocal shaping magnificently. The Last Goodbye – the first composition presented to Mancio – is brightly wistful, as is Cherry Tree which charmingly portrays the tapestry of life (reflected in Simon Manfield’s front and back cover illustrations, and also in Alan Broadbent’s exquisite ornamentation). Each track becomes a favourite, Small Wonder‘s succinct lyrics making way for blue-sky piano trio delicacy; and One for Bud celebrates a passion for Bud Powell with a brisk be-bop delivery from Mancio which would be at home in any classic song-and-dance movie (“I went to work – 9 to 5. I concentrated on the boss and his jive. His patter and zeal held no inch of appeal compared to Bud.”).

Hide Me From the Moonlight‘s emotional weight is superb, its descending/ascending chromatics and tenuti making it a romantic stand-out. Heartwarming, ‘Que Sera, Sera’-style Forever is Mancio’s playful take on life, concluding with “One day you find that you have all the answers but nobody asks you the questions”; and ease-back Close to the Moon might easily have been in Sinatra’s repertoire. Where the Soft Winds Blow blithely sails to a memorable melody written by a 17-year-old Alan Broadbent; chattering calypso Just Like a Child‘s slick, rhythmic vocal could be central to a much-loved musical; and serene Lullaby for MM (Broadbent, here, writing to Mancio’s personal dedication to her late father) somehow evokes the touching reminiscences of Michel Legrand.

There’s the sense of an hour standing still with this recording (skilfully produced by Andrew Cleyndert), such is its affecting dedication to craft – and certainly a highlight of 2017 so far. As just one of many attractive lines states: “I see life through your eyes and take first prize”.

Released on 23 April 2017, Songbook is available from Georgia Mancio’s website and Amazon.

 

Georgia Mancio voice, lyrics
Alan Broadbent piano, music
Oli Hayhurst double bass
Dave Ohm drums, percussion

georgiamancio.com
alanbroadbent.com

Roomspin Records – 1923 (2017)

 

‘All Things’ – Slowly Rolling Camera

src_allthings

SLOWLY ROLLING CAMERA’s eponymous 2014 debut release made a strong impression, garnering an enthusiastic, international fanbase – and follow-up All Things powers to still greater heights with its dynamic blend of soul, electronica, trip hop, jazz and rock.

Fronted by charismatic vocalist, vocal arranger and lyricist Dionne Bennett – whose deep, emotional timbres are the band’s signature – the central quartet completed by Dave Stapleton (keyboards), Deri Roberts (sound design, electronics, percussion) and Elliot Bennett (drums, percussion) calls upon an impressive complement of musicians to assist in realising their ambitious, lush, almost rock-symphonic imaginings. Echoes of The Cinematic Orchestra are authenticated by the presence of guitarist Stuart McCallum; jazz collaborators Ben Waghorn and Laura Jurd provide improvisational flair; and strings enhance the cinemascopic fervour whilst also providing contrasting tranquillity.

Dionne Bennett’s intense, often angsty delivery is perfect for this album’s pervading themes of ‘relationships and the human condition’, and her inflected control, vibrato and sumptuous harmonies feel matchless on the current scene. Scintillation, for example, smoulders over searing strings before erupting into darting rhythms and instrumental soloing over tremulant Fender Rhodes, with tensile “I feel your fire” vocals at snapping point; and McCallum’s reverberant electric guitar paints the sky with incandescent white light. Key to the band’s percussive drive is Elliot Bennett, whose intricacy and energy is always so compelling to watch and hear – opener The Fix is typical of his kaleidoscopic approach, combining weighty, held-back lurching with pin-sharp, cymbal-thrashing accuracy.

It’s difficult to overstate how slick and how layered this production is. Delusive‘s catchy core riff recalls Harold Faltermeyer’s ‘Axel F’; Dave Stapleton’s introduction of the Moog synth, especially in High Praise and Room with a View, is inspired – evocative of ’70s prog, it adds so much to this tumultuous, energising 21st Century landscape; and Deri Roberts’ sound manipulation in Oblivion, supporting Dionne Bennett’s frenetic, shouted choruses of “Leave me alone” confirm that any one of this album’s nine tracks could be the dramatic backdrop to a blockbuster thriller (and equally at home on BBC 6 Music’s playlists).

The transformation of one of Stapleton’s earlier, minimalist, Gorecki-inspired piano works (from his own album Flight) into the soulful vocal outpouring of Unsetting Sun is effective, with string quartet intensifying the heart-wrenched emotion; The Brink is a standout, pulsating, soul/rock episode, with McCallum’s cascading guitar lines enhancing its exciting cacophony; and wind-down end-piece All Things, complete with oscillating synth sirens, wraps up this breathtaking 46-minute visceral explosion.

The ‘difficult second album’? Not… a… chance!

Released on 4 November 2016, All Things is available as LP, CD and digital download from Edition Records at Bandcamp.

 

Dionne Bennett lyrics, vocals, vocal arrangements
Dave Stapleton Fender Rhodes, Moog, string arrangements, piano
Deri Roberts sound design, electronics, production, pandeiro, cuica, berimbau, udu, cabasa, calabash, ghungharu bells, finger cymbals, seed pod shaker
Elliot Bennett drums, tumbadores, bongos, shakers, ribbon crasher, bells
with
Stuart McCallum guitar
Aidan Thorne double bass, electric bass
Ben Waghorn saxophones, bass clarinet
plus
Laura Jurd trumpet
Gareth Roberts trombone
Simon Kodurand violin
Christiana Mavron violin
Katy Rowe violin
Victoria Stapleton violin
Ilona Bondar viola
Niamh Ferris viola
Sarah Davison cello
Abigail Blackman cello
and (on Unsetting Sun)
David Brodowski violin
Catrin Win Morgan violin
Felix Tanner viola
Reinoud Ford cello

slowlyrollingcamera.com

Edition Records – EDN1080 (2016)