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Vale Allan Browne

Allan Browne
Jun 13, 2015 Updated Jun 26, 2015

Australian jazz icon Allan Browne - drummer, composer and poet - has sadly passed away just a month shy of his 71st birthday.

You could catch Allan Browne most Monday nights at Bennetts Lane, driving the band from behind his drum kit and cymbals. If there was ever a foundation of the Melbourne jazz scene, Allan Browne was the man. Alongside regular gigs like his Monday night features at Bennetts Lane, he was the chairman of the Melbourne Jazz Co-op, ran masterclasses on jazz history at the Victorian College of the Arts and also served with the Australia Council for the Arts. Allan was also a recipient of the prestigious Don Banks award in 2001 - one of only a few Australian jazz musicians to receive the prize. Not only that, but he was a Graeme Bell Jazz Hall of Fame inductee, and performed on a number of ARIA award winning releases, including Paul Grabowsky's Six By Three.

Browne was due to play at the Bennetts Lane closing night on Monday, June 14, 2015, and had appeared there only a week beforehand at the 2015 Melbourne International Jazz Festival to launch his latest quintet album 'Ithaca Bound.'

Always the gentleman, Allan Browne’s free spirit was evident in his art. He was not only a drummer, but a composer and a poet, and he was an immensely diverse musician. During the 60s, he helped found the legendary Melbourne trad jazz outfit known as ‘The Red Onion Jazz Band:’ “Because traditional jazz was very popular, we became a cult band… As we became more competent, we started getting interested in the Hot 5 and Hot 7 stuff… we learn’t all the Jelly Roll Morton, everything that Pops recorded, all the King Oliver things and all the Bix Beiderbecke things.

When big international names were in town, Browne would often accompany them on the drums. He backed the likes of Milt Jackson, Jay McShann, Phil Woods and Johnny Griffin. “The Milt Jackson gig was the most swinging’ gig I’ve ever done… he wanted a sizzle cymbal, so I got this old cymbal I bought for 30 bucks. I took it in and he loved it, and I’ve been playing it ever since, and that was ’78!

Browne never shied away from more contemporary jazz settings either, and instead surrounded himself with many younger musicians, and has recently worked with Marc Hannaford, Sam Anning, Shannon Barnett. Mal Stanley featured a 2011 Bennetts Lane recording with Browne, Hannaford and Annaing on Jazztrack, which you can check out hereHis latest album, which was just released at the 2015 Melbourne International Jazz Festival featured Eugene Ball on trumpet, Geoff Hughes on guitar, Phil Noy on alto sax and Nick Haywood on bass, and you can hear a sample here, and below is another clip of Browne accompanying bassist Sam Anning with saxophonist Julian Wilson.

Finally, in his own words - those of a true improviser, when asked by fellow drummer Andrew Dickerson about what to expect when playing a gig with Al: “When you come along… I hope you realise that none of us really know what we’re going to play, we’ve spent our lives up until now preparing for this moment. That’s what it’s all about, and we’re just going to do our best. It’s not a planned thing - it’s completely improvised.” Catch that full interview from RN’s Into the Music here.


Vale Allan Browne. 1944 - 2015.

A photo posted by ABC Jazz (@abc_jazz) on Jun 13, 2015 at 12:38am PDT

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On Sep 17, 2016. 2:38pm
Dale Peters said

Hats off to Allan Browne, a wonderful man and brilliant musician who I had the privilege of meeting and working with on the Genre Jumping album. Belated condolences to his family - RIP.

On Jun 17, 2015. 11:24pm
Garry Boase said

Saw him once in the small room (I'm from Perth) I think it was Keller and Murphy, He filled the room with his warmth and humanity.

On Jun 17, 2015. 8:14pm
Christopher Lynch said

Further to my earlier post on the wonderful Alan Browne, may I add that it never ceased to amaze me and no doubt so many others, how he could adapt his drumming style to differing jazz genres. He could sound like 'Baby' Dodds in one context or Billy Higgins in another. Remarkable indeed.
Thanks again Alan.
Christopher Lynch.

On Jun 15, 2015. 8:14pm
Christopher Lynch said

Alan Browne was one of the most unique, spontaneous and colourful characters in Australian jazz. What a sudden and very sad loss. Like many others, I was looking forward to attending his closing session at Bennett's Lane later this evening. Looks like we'll all have to be patient until we meet him again in another lovelier time and place. Meanwhile, Alan's possibly jamming right now with the recently deceased Ornette Coleman or talking drums with Ed Blackwell!
And like others of my generation, I vividly recall AB working excitedly with the wonderful Red Onions. Delightful.
Thankyou Alan for your outstanding drumming, years of dedication and inspiring music, in addition to your quirky humour and whimsical philosophying.

On Jun 15, 2015. 9:19am
Henk van Leeuwen said

Goodbye Al
Thanks for taking us on your jazz journey and your immensely personal contribution to the shaping of our Australian cultural identity. Indeed the spontaneity you brought to the art of creative music in Melbourne will leave a profound influence and lasting legacy on this ever evolving city. Much will be said about you in the jazz scene and the memories are huge. The nearness of your music will be present to all those with ears open and loving hearts. - Henk van Leeuwen

On Jun 13, 2015. 10:18pm
James Ashburner said

He was more than a stalwart. Alan Browne was an inspiration and encouraged others. That alone is wonderful.

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