AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
When I left Woody Herman’s band in 1972, I left big bands for good. Well—I thought I had. They were too big, too loud, for me. Apart from an occasional gig writing something for a singer, I had no desire or interest to revive that side of my musical life. Then a few years ago, I got a couple of commissions that had me rethinking my feelings about big band music and my approach to writing it.
For one thing, I needed an outlet for some tunes I have written over the years that I think have stood the test of time (at least my time). They have strong melodic and harmonic qualities and adapt well to my concept of big band music, which is that the band should behave like a small combo. Soloists improvise on the chord changes, with ensembles constructed simply on the form of the piece so that what ebbs and flows is always recognizable. I have an aversion to being clever. I prefer, and hope, that the music coming out of me is free of affectation and manipulation, yet has an emotional curve determined by the music and my feelings. Another reason was to address the problem of a piano player on the one hand and lots of brass on the other. I wanted to even the odds, give each element its due. But what brought everything together was a commission for a program with the famous NDR Bigband. Thanks to Axel, Jörg Achim, Ollie and especially the individual members of the band—personalities all, in the best Duke Ellington sense—who gave of themselves and made the music come alive as I heard it in my mind. Only better!
Between The Lines
This is a study on the famous Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker intro to “All The Things You Are,” straight-ahead swing and an introduction to these superb musicians.
Sonata for Swee’ Pea
The music of Billy Strayhorn has been with me since I was very young. He has inspired countless musicians and continues to inspire me through the years. I had the opportunity to write a whole show of his music for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles a few years back, so he’s looking over my shoulder, it seems. I hope with a smile.
Woody ‘n’ Me
Woody was one of the greatest and hippest human beings I’ve ever met. But I didn’t know that then, and this piece is a dedication to his memory. He lived a tough life that, despite all odds, he faced with courage and resignation. I’m humbled and proud to have known him.
Covenant (Die Vereinbarung)
A study in counterpoint, the theme and its variations derived from just a few motifs. The title refers to a promise I made long ago to myself to be true to the music that moves me and motivates my life.
The Long White Cloud
The title is an English paraphrase of “Aotearoa”, the Maori name for New Zealand. This is something I actually saw when I was leaving on a boat to the US from Wellington so long ago: the sea was calm and as the islands slowly faded away due to the curvature of the earth, there, above the horizon, was the long white cloud the Maori ancestors rowed towards some 1000 years ago. Originally commissioned by David Naylor and the NZ Youth Jazz Orchestra in the early 90s, this is one of the few charts I wrote during my “hiatus” from big bands. Now, it is revised a little and features an incredible one-take solo performance by Christoph Lauer. All I had to do was describe the gradual building of the piece to him and this is what I received as a gift in return.
Love In Silent Amber
This was written while I was on the road with Woody. I was 23. The enigmatic title and the song still have a lot of meaning to me, expressing something where words leave off.
I first became curious about Sonny Clark by deciphering Bill Evans’ anagram of his name on Bill’s "Conversations With Myself". Being Down Under in the 60s, trying to find music by Sonny was impossible. I had to wait a while before I finally heard and fell in love with his effortless, skipping time. This tune was the outcome of that first experience and the chart expands on the sense of elation I get when listening to and playing with that kind of swinging feeling. “Sonny’s Skip” would have been the better title, now that I think of it.
This is dedicated to my beautiful wife Alison, who rescued me from the slippery slope and helped me regain my sense of self. I can’t dance, but if I could I would take her in my arms and dance to this.
America The Beautiful
As a final tribute, I’ve tried to express the generosity of the American spirit. This country gave me a life in music and I give thanks to it every day. From its expansive vistas I devised a style befitting a cross-country trip from Los Angeles to New York with my family a couple of years back. The theme, disguised at first, is finally quoted in rich harmony. But there is an undertone of the unfortunate “military, industrial, (entertainment) complex” that is ever-present in one way or another. The coda will have none of that nonsense however!
I hope that you enjoy the musical adventures of yours truly.
To be continued.
Very special thanks to:
Ralf Kemper, whose heart is as big and warm as the man himself; to the musicians who brought my charts to life; and in particular to one man, who through tireless effort and no great reward to himself, brought all the elements together to realize this project, my friend and manager Jan Matthies. Without these forces of nature, my music would not have wings.
ALAN BROADBENT AND NDR BIGBAND
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
1. Between The Lines
2. Sonata For Swee’ Pea
3. Woody ‘n’ Me
5. The Long White Cloud
6. Love In Silent Amber
7. Sonny’s Step
8. Mendocino Nights
9. America The Beautiful
Alan Broadbent – except #9 Samuel A. Ward, Alan Broadbent
Jörg Achim Keller
Trumpets / Flugelhorns
1. Thorsten Benkenstein
2. Ingolf Burkhardt
3. Claus Stötter, soloist on #7, #9 - except Felix Meyer #4
4. Reiner Winterschladen
Fiete Felsch (1. as / ss / fl), soloist on #1
Peter Bolte (2. as, fl)
Christof Lauer (1. ts, cl), soloist on #3, #5 - except Gabriel Coburger #2 (ts, cl, ss)
Lutz Büchner (2. ts, ss, cl, fl), soloist on #7, #9
Frank Delle (bs, bcl, fl), soloist on #1 - except Edgar Herzog #4
1. Dan Gottshall, soloist on #1
2. Rainer Sell
3. Stefan Lottermann
4. Ingo Lahme
Alan Broadbent, soloist on all tracks except #5
Ingmar Heller, soloist on #4, #8
Marcel Serierse, soloist on #1, #7, #9 - except Martijn Vink #4
Recorded at NDR Studio 1, Hamburg, Germany (02-05/April/2013), except #4 (29/Oct/2013)
Executive Producer NDR
Axel Dürr, Stefan Gerdes
Alan Broadbent, Jan Matthies
Recording Producer NDR
Recording Engineer NDR
Michael Plötz, Rudi Grosser (29/Oct/2013)
Recording Technician and Sequoia Operator
Martin Hansen, Stefan Thölen, Wolfgang Dirks (29/Oct/2013)
Andrew Miller, Lasse Zacharias (29/Oct/2013)
Mixed at NDR Studio 1, Hamburg, Germany (12-13+21-22/Aug/2013) + (10/Jan+10-11/Feb/2014)
Ralf Kemper & Veith Semrau
Ralf Kemper & Veith Semrau & Michael Pagenstedt
at Eden Riverside Mastering Lab, www.eden-riverside.com
Penina S. Finger
Jan Matthies Music Management, www.janmatthies.com