In person, in bands like Charlie Haden’s Quartet West, Alan Broadbent can be a startling piano player, capable of impulsive outbursts.
He makes damn fine piano trio records, one after the other, but they only hint at his live persona. They are more conservative, and more about his exceptional skill level, which is able to translate even momentary creative reflexes into something pianistic and elegant. His tight trio here is his regular working Los Angles-based unit, with bassist Putter Smith and drummer Kendall Kay. The overall mood is one of reflective quietude, even on headlong lines like Charlie Parker’s “Marmaduke” and Coltrane’s title track.
Broadbent is a special ballad player. His rendering of Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes” communicates fervent adoration. He touches in the parameters of “My Old Flame” in careful, significant chords and spare right-hand gestures that eventually become long twisting lines like meandering thoughts. “Willow Weep for Me” is a halting waltz, a contemplation that almost sounds too private to be shared.
One complaint: Smith should take a vow of verbal silence when he solos. His mutterings are not only distracting, they sound slightly demented.