Alan Broadbent is New Zealand’s Tommy Flanagan. His taste and nurturing nature have made him an ideal accompanist. Like Flanagan, Broadbent has also made first-rate recordings as the leader of his own trio.
’Round Midnight revolves around a paradox. On the one hand, Broadbent wants “a completely improvised experience,” as opposed to an “overly planned” big band trio. On the other hand, Broadbent is such a disciplined artist, and such an orderly thinker, that his “completely improvised experiences” come out sounding polished and planned.
“Groovin’ High” and “The Man I Love” are swung as hard as tunes can be swung by players who might be wearing tuxedos (or at least Armani suits). The slow performances, like J. J. Johnson’s “Lament,” communicate refined, dignified adult emotion. The formal chord voicings and ornate counterlines of the title track make Thelonious Monk as objective and grand as public architecture.
In trying to live up to Broadbent’s description of him as “a great virtuoso,” bassist Brian Bromberg sometimes sounds more athletic than artistic. But drummer Joe LaBarbera is intuitive and sensitive in service to the music.