Rhythms from the jazz age
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