Res­onate in a free­wheel­ing fu­sion of words and mu­sic

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Paul Cliff

with or ad­mired. There is also a sec­tion of 20 ru­mi­na­tions on CD record­ings by Browne’s past bands.

Non-jazz evo­ca­tions en­com­pass the nat­u­ral world and do­mes­tic life (with a lovely con­fla­tion of jazz and fam­ily in the im­agery of his loves in The Three Lit­tle Bops: busily ‘‘ scat­tin’’ about him, each into their own mu­sic just like ‘‘ bop-rap­tured dad­dio’’).

A mid­dle sec­tion ( Frail Ves­sel / Steely Stuff) touches on Browne’s hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion for a sin­gle lung transplant be­cause of em­phy­sema in 2002. Here, I Am in a Sub­ma­rine at the Pole is a song of dis­lo­ca­tion, ramp­ing up to the cry: ‘‘ get me out, I am dizzy / real air, wind, rain, any­thing, get me out be­fore I fall drag­ging the drips / trig­ger­ing alarms’’.

There is also the charm­ing play of po­etic v med­i­cal in Big Hearts, here quoted in full:

Else­where Miles Davis is a be­guil­ing ‘‘ frag­ile har­mon / cry­ing in iso­la­tion spa­tially per­fect’’. And snatches of re­mem­bered jazz con­ver­sa­tion serve to con­nect Aus­tralian jazzmen to the univer­sal tradition, as in For Emily Rem­ler: ‘‘ I might look like a good / jewish girl from new jersey / but inside I am a fifty year old / heavy set black man with a / big thumb like Wes.’’

Or again in For Mal Wal­dron: ‘‘ ‘ when I nod my head just play’ / a free ride, a jug­ger­naut, new york, paris, / mars and the odd black ra­dio­g­ra­phers be­ware when ex­am­in­ing x-rays of the great jazz doc­tors they have huge hearts that are not symp­toms of any­thing sin­is­ter. hole, / all in the first set’’. Sim­i­larly, A Short Verse to a Tall Man urges be­bop vi­bra­phon­ist Milt Jack­son to re­turn to ‘‘ in­spire us again’’, and open the door ‘‘ to the aladdin’s cave, / of ul­ti­mate burn’’.

In­tro­duc­ing this hand­some col­lec­tion (tall, white and clas­si­cal in for­mat), John Clare touches on the po­etry-jazz nexus of the 1920s dadaists and sur­re­al­ists, and the beats of the 50s. There is a sort of ma­lin­ger­ing Charles Bukowski in Per­cus­sive Santa, a self-por­trait (I am pre­sum­ing) of the jazzman’s ear­lier and wilder days.

But other po­etic spir­its are also per­haps present. Boomerang Blues has echoes of Dorothy Parker’s dead­pan hu­mour and in­deed even of Oodgeroo’s No More Boomerang: ‘‘ how I love my boomerang, as faith­ful as a dog / it is a liv­ing thing to me, yet made out of a log’’.

In some of the col­lec­tion’s iconic Aus­traliana, there is even a sort of jazzy Jindy­worobak, as well as in the taut, imag­is­tic por­traits of the na­tive birds in Red Hill (a kook­aburra with ‘‘ his binoc­u­lars sharp / for mouse or snake’’) and Mag­pie Stomp, with the bird car­olling ‘‘ that fa­mous Aus­tralian lick’’. Like that, Browne’s is a vi­brant and var­ied per­for­mance.

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