CD launch of Travellers by Keller/Murphy/Browne as part of the Melbourne Women’s International Jazz festival, Monday 7 December, 8.30pm at Bennetts Lane.
Monday at Bennetts Lane was always Allan Browne‘s night — a chance to muse on life and enjoy the gentle humour and poetic insights of this inspiring occupant of the drum kit.
Pianist Andrea Keller and bassist Tamara Murphy began playing in a trio with Allan on Monday nights in 2003, so it was entirely apposite for their last album together to be set afloat on this night of the week and in this festival that they shared so often.
But that did not help ease a lingering sense of sadness at Allan’s absence as Keller and Murphy, with resplendent help from Eugene Ball on trumpet, opened with Days of Wine and Roses (a track from the trio’s 2006 Carried by the Sun album) and via Keller’s distinctive Queen For Tea into Browne’s Broncoscopy.
The latter was tightly delivered and lots of fun, with shimmering horn, heaps of energy and a robust bass solo, yet I could not shrug off the feeling that the humour and philosophy was missing, the poetry silenced.
Yet Allan was always in the minds of these three close friends and colleagues, Keller recalling that the ballad of great beauty she wrote from a fragment of melody by Czech guitarist / composer David Doruzka — eventually named A Glimpse of the Past — was most likely to have been played in the trio’s first gig with the drummer.
My first highlight of the night came next in Murphy’s ballad A Call, A Whisper, which was entrancing. Not for the first time, after that, I wondered how musicians can switch mood, or change track, so suddenly when they closed the set only moments later with Monk’s Hackensack. I was still deeply immersed in the whisper.
Poetry did return in the second set, but before that came my second highlight with Keller’s All the Colours Grey, which was sublime and gripping, and close behind it the new album’s title track — Murphy’s Travellers.
Then Miriam Zolin, close to Browne and to improvised music, who penned some wondrous words to accompany the album, stood in for the absent Al in reading a Beverley George poem, Empty Garden, while the trio played. It was moving and effective, helping to ease the loss and fill the gap. For a few moments it was as if Al Browne was there again.
Browne’s Cyclosporin followed, before Keller spoke of celebrating “what Al gave us and what he shared with us”. The set closed with a composition of Murphy’s that was played at every one of the trio’s gigs. Announcing Lullaby, Keller said simply, “This is for Allan.”
Vale Allan Browne.