Rhythms from the jazz age

Con­jurer: Po­ems

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Paul Cliff

By Al­lan Browne Ex­tem­pore, 96pp, $29.95 (print book with com­pan­ion CD)

CON­JURER is a col­lec­tion from 67-year-old Mel­bourne jazz per­son­al­ity Al­lan Browne. It plays very well. About 40 of the 70 po­ems (writ­ten across 40 years) are sub­stan­tively about jazz, and for some of these con­tex­tual knowl­edge is nec­es­sary for full ap­pre­ci­a­tion. Or you can check the help­ful ex­plana­tory notes.

The Con­juror project was con­ceived as a dual po­etry col­lec­tion and jazz per­for­mance CD, the lat­ter fea­tur­ing Browne’s sex­tet play­ing pieces framed by seven of his po­ems. The po­ems on the 68-minute CD, de­liv­ered in Browne’s dark, gritty, la­conic Aus­tralian voice, are mainly read up­front, as lead-ins to the mu­sic.

The col­lec­tion is an eclec­tic mix, with much fun and play­ful­ness, some deft punc­tur­ing and some solid swing, with some slower move­ments of solid grav­i­tas and a fine rhyth­mic sense throughout. Some po­ems con­tain mu­si­cal direc­tions, such as ‘‘ gen­tle free play in 3/4 in B flat drums and bass in’’ ( For Gertrude Stein), and the poet can wield a deft pun, as when re­call­ing play­ing in a Dix­ieland band, where ‘‘ things got Ory’’ ( All­frey St 1952).

Jazz-based themes in­clude the mu­si­cian’s work­ing life, re­flec­tions on friends and col­leagues and homages to jazz greats played

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