Songbook is a delightful collaboration between double Grammy award-winning pianist, Alan Broadbent, and the singer and lyricist, Georgia Mancio. Broadbent played piano with Charlie Haden’s Quartet West, and boasts an impressive resume, having worked with the likes of Diana Krall and Natalie Cole. Songbook is Mancio’s sixth album, after 2015’s impressive Live At Revoice!, a collection of songs recorded at the voice festival she curated for a number of years.
The two started to perform together back in 2013, initially as a duo, then later as a quartet, and after discovering a mutual love of George Gershwin, and Rodgers and Hart, Broadbent asked Mancio to try her hand at writing lyrics to a tune he had composed for Quartet West. One song led to another, and the writing partnership flourished, with most of the tunes here written over a period of just nine months.
The original quartet was reconvened for the album, Oli Hayhurst on double bass, and Dave Ohm on drums and percussion.
The album opens with The Journey Home, which is based on a relatively simple refrain by Broadbent. The lyrics address memories of days gone by, and to Mancio’s credit, they feel very natural. The tune benefits from a delightful piano solo by Broadbent, with deft support from Hayhurst on bass, who then takes over with a solo of his own.
Broadbent plays a melancholic intro to The Last Goodbye, and Mancio picks up on that, writing about her final visit to her late father’s house. The tune was originally written for Quartet West, and was the first song written for the album. There’s a Latin vibe to Someone’s Sun, which features some fancy percussion by Dave Ohm. It also boasts some clever wordplay.
Cherry Tree is a gentle ballad, which sees Ohm switch to brushes. It’s one of the less memorable tunes on the album, but still features a lovely solo by Broadbent. I preferred Small Wonder, which includes a lovely bass line by Hayhurst. The lyrics are also enchanting, with Mancio referencing, “the star that shines despite the city lights.”
As the title suggests, One For Bud is a knotty be-bop tune. It can be hard to write lyrics for such a composition, but Mancio carries it off with aplomb.
Hide Me From The Moonlight is a sad ballad. Mancio sings it quite beautifully, lingering over the lyrics on one of the album’s many highlights. Forever is quite different in style, and could easily pass for a Hal David lyric, which is no bad thing.
Close To The Moon has a gorgeous melody, which is crying out for a good lyric, and Mancio duly obliges. Just Like A Child is a fun, uptempo tune, with a slight Latin feel. There’s some lovely interlplay between Mancio and Broadbent here, before the latter delivers a fine piano solo.
Lullaby For MM is the duo’s most recent composition, with Mancio delivering simple, heartfelt lyrics in memory of her late father. And this song is a good illustration of what makes this album so special; it’s clearly a very personal project for both musicians. For Broadbent, who has written some many fine, melodic tunes over the years, but lacked a songwriting partner; and for Mancio, a strong lyricist in her own right, who met the challenge of working with Broadbent’s occasionally enigmatic song titles, always making the songs sound personal, and never resorting to cliché. It's also worth mentioning the artwork, which feature some charming illustrations by Simon Manfield.
Songbook is a delightful collection that lives up to its title; the duo will be playing at Ronnie Scott’s on Monday night, and will hopefully be adding more dates as the year progresses. They continue to write more songs together, so hopefully we can expect a second volume in 2018.