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Phil Broadhurst ‘Flauberts Dance’@CJC

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Phil Broadhurst is a regular at the CJC (Creative Jazz Club) just as he was at the ‘London Bar’ in its hey day.   He is also the compiler and presenter of the well-known Jazz radio slot ‘The Art of Jazz’.  His last album titled ‘Delayed Reaction’ was well received and shortlisted in the Jazz Tui Awards.  It was dedicated to the music of Michel Petrucciani, the diminutive and wonderfully brilliant French pianist whose life was blighted by ‘brittle bone syndrome’.  That project was obviously a labour of love, as Phil had long been immersed in Petrucciani’s music.  The album, (out on IA-Rattle), outlined a very personal journey for Phil and while showcasing the project about New Zealand he must have pondered ‘what next’?   The what-next is ‘Flaubert’s Dance’.

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From ‘Delayed Reaction’ it was a logical step to examine other artists who had influenced him and for whom he had a deep affinity.  Not all are pianists but all take a pianistic approach to their music.  All are currently at the top of their game.  The compositions on ‘Flauberts Dance are all Phil Broadhurst’s and they are dedicated to the following musicians:  Herbie Hancock, Manu Katche, Enrico Pieranunzi, Eliane Elias, Kieth Jarrett and Tomasz Stanko.   What these artists have in common is striking originality, a modern approach to harmony and the fact that none of them are easy to compartmentalise.  They are consequently quite different from each other.    A Tomasz Stanko tune and a Manu Katche tune could hardly be confused even though they have worked together.  IMG_6922 - Version 2

It is obvious from the above list that Phil often reaches outside of the Americas for musical inspiration.  While Jarrett and Hancock have influenced most modern pianists their ubiquitous presence tends to eclipse others of equal importance.   It is therefore fitting that the latin infused Brazilian born Eliane Elias and the two Europeans give counterweight to the North Americans.   The composition ‘First Shot’ dedicated to Hancock looks at a particular tune rather than the scope of his career to date.   I truly like this number as it has the distinct feel of a European or an Antipodean acknowledging Herbies work, not an American.

Phil has had no trouble in assembling top class musicians for the album and with Roger Manins (tenor sax), Olivier Holland (bass)  and Cameron Sangster (drums) his quartet had depth and experience.   He also enlisted trumpeter Mike Booth for three numbers.

The title track on the album is dedicated to the scandalously underrated and utterly brilliant Italian Pianist Enrico Pieranunzi.   This track ‘Flaubert’s Dance’ had everyone listening in rapt silence and even though the club filled to bursting point you could have heard a  pin drop.  With unerring accuracy he has dived right into the essence of the man he pays homage to.   The voicings, the phrasing and a unique sense of weightless swing that is so European.  When Roger Manins comes in the Pieranunzi connection deepens.  Bringing to mind the Italian tenor player Stefano de Anna who along with Hein Van de Geyn featured so strongly on the classic Pieranunzi album ‘Don’t Forget the Poet’.  IMG_6927 - Version 2

Tenor player Roger Manins always gives of his best and he showed us once again that he can wring deep sentiment and even prettiness out of ballads while never sounding cliched.  In the mid tempo tunes he imparts that intensity and locomotive drive that he is so well-known for.  When the tunes are explorations, it is only fitting to have a born story-teller like Roger onboard.  Olivier Holland (bass) has often played in Phil Broadhurst line ups and his approach is that of the consummate professional.   These days it is not uncommon to hear bass players vocalising lines an octave above the pitch.   Once the preserve of Major Holley and Slam Stewart, Oli has increasingly been employing that technique (but not so much arco bass).   His improvisational approach has always been solid but the vocalising appears to extend that.   It is perhaps like a saxophone player having the words of a standard firmly in their head as they lay down the melody.   It changes the dynamic in positive ways.   Cameron Sangster (drums) works across many genres and he is one of the few drummers to appear regularly with big bands in Auckland.   He has a strong sense of space and dynamics and can switch to a more colourist mode if the number requires that.   He is also able to moderate his sound to a room.   A tasteful drummer.  The remaining band member is trumpeter Mike Booth who played on three numbers.  His soloing and ensemble work is great and musicians about town are often utilising him for his impressive and varied skills.   He and Roger in lock-step are a force to behold.   Both the quartet and quintet gave Phil Broadhurst adequate room to shine and he did.

What: The Phil Broadhurst Quartet

Who: Phil Broadhurst (piano), Roger Manins (tenor sax), Olivier Holland (bass), Cameron Sangster (drums) – guest Mike Booth (trumpet).

Where and What: ‘Fauberts Dance’ album released by Rattle Records  –   CJC (Creative Jazz Club) basement 1885 Brittomart building, Auckland

Number filmed by Jennie Sol

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Beyond category

Italian Style

In an already crowded field of great contemporary Jazz pianists, the Italian Enrico Pieranunzi is a stand out. He is regarded as one of the best Jazz pianists in Europe (and beyond) and his career has been on a steady upwards trajectory for decades. American and UK reviewers have mentioned him in the same breath as Evans and Jarrett, but his stylistic range probably encompasses a broader scope than either of the above. He is an adventurous musician who will frequently take himself outside of his comfort zone and then return effortlessly to the achingly beautiful melodic tunes that are his mainstay.  His long-standing trio with Marc Johnson (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) is well-known, but a number of other trio, duo and quartet configurations work equally well.  Like many great musicians he has an uncanny knack for locating top quality sidemen and he gives them ample room to breathe on their own. While I love his trio work with Baron and Johnson – who wouldn’t like those two – my personal favourite is the ‘Live in Paris’ trio. That all European trio comprises of Andre Ceccarelli (drums) and Hein Van de Geyn (bass); who are simply astonishing on this recording. The three work as if with one mind as they stretch time and rework standards and Pieranunzi tunes in ways that defy belief.

When Pieranunzi first became known outside of Italy his playing was often described as Evans influenced and at the time that seemed a fair assessment. After listening to his considerable discography I am not so sure, as some of his early work gives a nod to McCoy Tyner and even Hancock.  There is little of Evans in his early recordings with Chet Baker or Art Farmer and by the time he had recorded his first album with Charlie Haden he was uniquely Pieranunzi.  His energy and innovation seem boundless and for the last decade and a half he has been recording in a variety of settings.   His recent ‘Domenico Scarlatti‘ album is a case in point.   He plays the baroque master with fluency and yet with a subtle improvisational edge.    He manages to make the rendition sound both ultra modern and yet true to the traditional improvisational mores of the day.  Only a very skilled Jazz musician could pull this off so well.

If I were to recommend albums I would have to start with the magnificent double album ‘Live in Paris’ (Pieranunzi, Hein Van de Geyn, Andre Ceccarelli) – Challenge label.   Also the double album ‘Live in Japan‘ or ‘Ballads‘ (Pieranunzi, Marc Johnson, Joey Baron) – Camjazz.  Other gems are his recent duo album with Marc Johnson and ‘Alone Together’ , a quartet with the stellar line up of Philip Catherine (g), Hein Van de Geyn (b) Joe La Barbera (d) – Challenge.   Two recent albums where he is not the leader are also well worth the effort; ‘Oslo‘ with Terje Gewelt, Anders Kjellberg – Resonant Music and ‘The Kingdom (where nobody dies)‘ Mads Vinding (b), Alex Riel (d).  They can be purchased on iTunes for around $18 each if you are impatient to own copies.  Amazon also holds a good range of Pieranunzi albums but when they occasionally run out of stock the second-hand albums often fetch huge prices until a reprinting of new stock occurs.  These are popular albums.