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)

‘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)

 

‘Live at ReVoice!’ – Georgia Mancio

GeorgiaMancio

A SONG isn’t truly a song until it reaches out and grabs your heart, with both singer and accompanist sharing the enjoyment and responsibility of sensitively breathing life into its particular character. Communication is all.

Some five years ago, London-based vocalist Georgia Mancio founded her popular ReVoice! Festival (in association with the Pizza Express Jazz Club), and has since curated and programmed more than 160 emerging and established artists, including Norma Winstone, John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler, Carleen Anderson, Claire Martin and Gregory Porter. Amongst this abundance of live jazz showcases has been Georgia herself, making 44 appearances to date – and somehow, she has managed to whittle down numerous recorded accounts from the festival into this hour-long, twelve-track treasure trove.

What particularly stands out about this release is the raw, pared-down sincerity of the performances. Georgia Mancio shares the stage each time with a single guest instrumentalist – and rather than any sense of ‘anonymous accompanist’, there’s an enthralling synergy between them; in some respects, no surprise at all when the calibre of the musicians (listed below) is taken into account. These are bold, no-hiding-place expressions, and Mancio – as storyteller – possesses an innate adaptability, both in technique and artistry, to enhance the melodies and lyrics of these well-chosen pieces so naturally and so clearly, without the need for over-embellishment or showboating. And that’s classy.

Wherever you dive in, this music has the ability to stop you in your tracks. The wistful, affectionate poetry of Paul Simon’s I Do It For Your Love is softly illuminated by Mancio’s gliding phraseology and endearing vibrato, with Nikki Iles’ subtle pianistic invention typically exquisite; and the emotion of Sting’s Fragile is drawn into focus as Andrew Cleyndert’s cantabile double bass wraps itself around the vocalist’s poignant yet agile delivery. The impudent swagger of Hendricks/Turrentine number Sugar is priceless – a fabulously intuitive double-act with Mancio’s rapid, teasing phrases matched by Laurence Cottle’s bluesy, looped, 5-string bass brilliance; whilst Sammy Cahn’s The Things We Did Last Summer, to Colin Oxley’s luscious electric guitar chords and fleet-fingered extemporisations, couldn’t be more carefree (especially when Georgia’s signature whistling completes the sunshiny picture).

The wistfulness of Lennon & McCartney’s In My Life is elegantly reimagined, James Pearson’s rubato piano so at one with the vocal; as is Carole King’s Going Back, with Liane Carroll’s characteristic keyboard grandeur honouring that strong ’60s songwriting tradition. Michael Janisch’s double bass is recognisably and percussively ebullient (audacious, even!) in quickfire Just In Time, Mancio scatting energetically; and the shared Italian heritage of the vocalist and her accordionist Maurizio Minardi is eloquently expressed in Le Strade Di Notte, Minardi’s rising and falling dynamics intimating dimly-lit melancholy.

A handful of piano-accompanied jewels complete the selection, including delightfully waltzing yet bittersweet Bendita, co-written by Mancio and Tom Cawley; charming Willow Weep For Me (Jason Rebello’s harmonic searchings so magical); Robert Mitchell’s lithe fingerwork pirouetting with Mancio’s impressive vocal elaborations on Just Friends; and an irresistibly misty end piece, David Bowie’s When I Live My Dream, accompanied by Ian Shaw.

Seasoned fans of ReVoice! will probably be itching to get their hands on this. For any other appreciator of beautifully-fashioned vocal jazz… equally, it’s a must.

Released on 26 November 2015, on Roomspin Records, Live at ReVoice! can be purchased from Jazz CDs and Amazon, as well as at iTunes.

 

Georgia Mancio voice
with
Liane Carroll piano
Tom Cawley piano
Andrew Cleyndert double bass
Laurence Cottle electric bass
Nikki Iles piano
Michael Janisch double bass
Maurizio Minardi accordion
Robert Mitchell piano
Colin Oxley guitar
James Pearson piano
Jason Rebello piano
Ian Shaw piano

georgiamancio.com

Roomspin Records – 1942 (2015)