Hot tracks: Pianist Alan Broadbent with the London Metropolitan Orchestra; cellist Christine Rauh

This latest album teams New Zealand-born pianist Alan Broadbent's trio - including drummer Peter Erskine and bassist Harvie S - with the London Metropolitan Orchestra, a Hollywood go-to for film soundtracks.

Broadbent calls this album the "culmination of a life's dream, a need I've always had to express something beautiful and substantial".

While the attempt at giving jazz the scope and sweep of an orchestral setting is commendable, there are mixed results. Occasionally, the tsunami of swooning strings and blaring horns takes things dangerously close to a muzak-y edge, especially when you listen to the album on repeat mode.

The opening 26-minute, 17-second symphonic title track is where this problem crops up on repeat listen. While the lush orchestration wraps you in luxe soundscapes, you cannot shake the feeling that the music needs a film, stat, for visuals to anchor the free-floating morass of notes.

Broadbent and his trio members shine in the more intimate moments, such as Blue In Green, where Broadbent's thoughtful melodic phrasings are backed discreetly by the string section. Naima becomes the pretext for an intriguing experiment in arranging, with a dramatic brass fanfare introduction, punctuated by sonorous drums, which turns the John Coltrane ballad into the vivid soundtrack for a historical Roman epic.

These experiments with the jazz standards, including Tadd Dameron's If You Could See Me Now and Broadbent's Lady In The Lake, really just show what music fans already know: that any well-structured tune can withstand heavier orchestral arrangements.

  • JAZZ


    Alan Broadbent, with the London Metropolitan Orchestra at Abbey Road

    Eden River Record

    3.5/5 stars

Pleasant enough music, but not a must-have for Broadbent fans.

Ong Sor Fern

The jazz-influenced music of Ukrainian composer Nikolai Kapustin (born 1937) is no longer a stranger in concert halls, especially his highly virtuosic piano works. His small output of cello works has finally received its due in the very capable hands of young German cellist Christine Rauh.



    Christine Rauh, cello et al

    SWR Music 19002

    5/5 stars

The two major works in this collection are his Second Cello Concerto (Op. 103) and Second Cello Sonata (Op. 84).

The Concerto, premiered by Rauh in 2014, leans more towards film music rather than strict jazz, with an achingly beautiful slow movement that sounds like a tribute to classic Hollywood romances.

She is accompanied by the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrucken Kaiserslautern conducted by Nicholas Collon.

In the Sonata, as well as shorter pieces such as Elegy (Op.96), Burlesque (Op.97) and Nearly Waltz (Op.98), she is partnered by Benyamin Nuss on piano. These musings sound like jazz improvisations even if the parts were meticulously scored by the composer.

The cello turns accompanist in Duett for alto sax and cello (Op. 99) where an irrepressible saxophonist, Peter Lehel, holds court.

Two of Kapustin's Piano Etudes (Op. 40) have been transcribed for cello and vibraphone, with percussionist Ni Fan in support.

As an encore, Rauh and Nuss' Hommage A Kapustin is a brief and touching tribute. Here are nearly 80 minutes of highly enjoyable listening.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe