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Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Melbourne Jazz Festival at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club

Over the last few years, I have had the pleasure of attending the odd gig as part of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival. I'm not generally a big listener of jazz, but I do enjoy it live - either a more traditional style, or something a bit more unusual and challenging.

Years ago, after a relationship break-up, I took to listening to ABC Classic FM, which ran a late-night jazz show (possibly still does). In one particularly glum mood, I heard the alternately freakish and dulcet tones of David Liebman's saxophone. It inspired me to buy one of the more unusual albums I own, a collection of his songs named after various colours (including the one I'd heard on the radio), aptly named Colors. It has kept me company in some of my oddest moods - because there is some music out there that magically fits those miniscule flashes of undefinable feelings that flit through our psyche. Ever since then, I have been much more open to trying different kinds of music, and in particular, different kinds of jazz.

Last year's memorable gig was that of Kneebody on the upstairs level of the Forum. Not only did the saxophonist have excellent forearms, but the combination of instruments, the improvisations that ensued, the obvious passion of the musicians for what they were doing, and the FEEL of the music made me remember that gutteral excitement: that music can be new and enthralling.

This year, the Melbourne Jazz Festival ran from 30 May to 8 June. I was keen to check out visiting Americans Chris Dave and The Drumhedz (despite Chris Dave having two first names), but unfortunately we just missed out on tickets. Instead we opted for a local act: the Allan Browne Quintet, playing at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club.

Despite living in Melbourne for five and a half years now, I am ashamed to admit I had never been to Bennetts Lane before this gig. (If it redeems me at all, I had seen jazz played at the Paris Cat and Uptown Jazz before this.) I enjoyed Bennetts Lane, whilst also finding it slightly seedy - as every good jazz club should be!

The Allan Browne Quintet played their signature "Drunken Boat"- their version of 25 verses of Rimbaud's poem from the 1870s, performed with all the drama and nuance of lilting poetry. It was quite an emotional journey: dizzy, electric, swaying, mournful, profound. Solidly good jazz by solidly good musicians - I believe they're regulars at Bennetts Lane, should you care to check them out.

I didn't get any good photos of the set itself (I never do, in a dark setting, with so much movement going on), but here are a few from my entry into the club. If nothing else, maybe they will inspire some wandering of Melbourne's laneways at night.

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