Remembering jazzman Phil Broadhurst

Thursday 30 April 2020
It is with sadness and fond memories that the University acknowledges the passing of Phil Broadhurst, head of Massey's Jazz School (Auckland campus, Albany) from 2001 until 2016.
Remembering jazzman Phil Broadhurst  - image1

Jazz pianist extraordinaire, recording artist and music educator the late Phil Broadhurst, former head of Massey's Jazz School in Auckland.

Last updated: Tuesday 5 April 2022

It is with sadness and fond memories that the University acknowledges the passing of Phil Broadhurst, head of Massey’s Jazz School (Auckland campus, Albany) from 2001 until 2016.

Phil, who died on April 24, is widely acknowledged as one of New Zealand’s leading jazz artists. A pianist, composer and educator, in 2001 he became the first jazz musician to be awarded the MNZM for services to jazz. His rich career included performing in Paris and London, and collaborations with many jazz greats, including saxophonists Johnny Griffin, Ronnie Scott, and Scott Hamilton. 

Widely respected and much-loved by his students and colleagues, Phil created opportunities for the wider jazz-loving community to enjoy music with popular concerts on campus featuring touring US jazz legends, as well as his own talented students.

In 2016 he won a New Zealand Music Awards Jazz Tui for the third album in his trilogy ‘Panacea’. He released his fourth and latest album, titled Positif, in November 2019.

Phil played regularly in Auckland, including at the iconic jazz venue The London Bar, where he was resident for many years. Through the 80s and 90s he both organised and performed frequently at the annual Winter Jazz series at the Auckland Art Gallery. Three times winner of the Jazz Record of the Year Award, he was also a well-known broadcaster, presenting his own programme, The Art Of Jazz, weekly on Concert FM.

Radio NZ’s Nick Tipping, who hosts the weekly jazz programme Inside Out and who headed the New Zealand School of Music jazz programme at Massey in Wellington (now located at Victoria University), worked closely with Phil, his Auckland counterpart.

In a one-hour musical celebration on Radio NZ this week, he remembered Phil as "a real gentleman, and someone I could always go to for advice. Every time I arrived in Auckland to hear some of his students play, it was almost as if Phil was quietly beside himself with excitement, and couldn't wait to show me how amazing they all were." 

Remembering jazzman Phil Broadhurst  - image2

Phil Broadhurst.

Phil frequently performed and taught at the Magnetic Island Jazz Festival (Queensland, Australia), and also played with his own group in Paris and London. Other concert appearances included the Wellington International Jazz Festival with John Bell’s Immaculate Trio, the Tauranga Jazz Festival with the Jazz Divas and Mojave, the Queenstown Jazz Festival with Rodger Fox’s All-Stars, and the Nelson Jazz Festival with the Jazz Divas and Frank Gibson’s Rainbow Bridge.

For many years, Phil presented, or was a major soloist, in concerts at the Tauranga Jazz Festival. These included tributes to Chick Corea, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, a celebration of Kiwi jazz composing, a jazz/classical crossover concert and the Jazz Divas. He also performed at the inaugural Samoa Jazz and Blues Festival.

French connection 

In 2008, Phil graduated from Massey with a Master of Philosophy exploring the life and work of legendary French jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani. His thesis revealed the poignant story of Petrucciani’s brief and remarkable musical career, which began in France where he was born and ended in the United States with his death at the age of 36 in 1999.

“Colouring any discussion of Michel Petrucciani’s music is the fact that throughout his life, he suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta [glass bones disease],” he wrote in his thesis titled Against All Odds – the life and music of Michel Petrucciani.

Bringing together a rich tapestry of interviews translated from French publications as well as his own face-to-face interviews with Petrucciani’s friends and fellow musicians, Phil– a fluent French speaker, self-confessed Francophile and former high school French language teacher – provides detailed analysis of Petrucianni’s original compositions, musical style and influences.

“His enormous appetite for life spilled out on to the keys. He could be, in turn, playful, spontaneous, joyful, serious, humorous, tender, direct, romantic, dominating, crafty, bawdy and self-indulgent. All these characteristics emerge at one time or another in his music,” Phil wrote.

Jazz school a 'powerhouse'

Musician and academic Dr Ralph Bathurst, who lectures in the School of Management at the Auckland campus, Albany, recalls meeting Phil prior to working at Massey. "He was teaching piano to secondary school jazz students. In that context he was an excellent teacher. His excellent humour brought out the best in his pupils."

At Massey, Phil established and developed the jazz school into "a powerhouse of musical excellence," says Dr Bathurst. "Many students who went through that school are now professional musicians, performing all over the world stage."

He particularly remembers a public seminar Phil gave on Michel Petrucciani, the subject of his thesis. "Phil not only described Petrucciani’s unique and somewhat percussive style of playing through words and video – he then demonstrated Petrucciani’s musicianship on the piano." 

He describes Phil as an outstanding yet unpretentious jazz pianist who was generous with his time and his ideas. 

Albany school aka 'jazz village'

Former jazz student, tutor and colleague Trudy Lile says; "Phil created a wonderful village in which we all thrived. I was one of the founding students of the BMus Jazz Performance programme at Massey University’s Albany Campus, when I first met Phil. He wasn’t at all hindered by my strong classical background, and I went on to be the first flutist in New Zealand to graduate as a Jazz Flute major. I went on to complete my honours, and master's of music, and I then started teaching on the programme as an artist teacher, and also administrative assistant to Phil."

"Phil had a great sense of humour, and was fun to work with," says Trudy, a successful jazz flutist, vocalist, educator and composer. "He had huge knowledge of jazz composition, and jazz history, and was always excited to make new discoveries. He was also excited to meet, hang out and play with overseas artists, the highlight being his performance with tenor saxophonist, the late Michael Brecker, on campus."

"As a pianist he always made the campus had a great collection of beautiful pianos, and that they were well looked after and appreciated," she recalls.

In 2003 Phil released The Road Ahead, featuring his trio and septet in live recordings, including a jazz suite commissioned by Massey University. Later, he appeared as sideman and composer on Colin Hemmingsen’s album The Rite of SwingPanacea, the third album of his Dedication trilogy on Rattle Records, was released in 2015. This followed 2013’s Flaubert’s Dance and 2011’s album Delayed Reaction, dedicated to Michel Petrucciani.

Nick Tipping wrote in the introduction to his Radio NZ tribute this week that, “despite battling cancer for almost two years, Phil managed to record two further albums, which were unreleased at the time of his passing”.

Phil is survived by his wife, jazz vocalist, pianist and composer Julie Mason, and three sons Cameron, Nick and Tim.

Listen to Nick Tipping’s Radio NZ tribute to Phil Broadhurst’s music which aired this week:

A memories and condolences page is available for comment online.