It felt like a flight of angels passing by. The closest thing to Heaven. This was the Allan Browne, Tamara Murphy, Andrea Keller Trio playing in the dim light of Bennett’s Lane. It was a Monday night, which seems to be an evening allocated to Allan for his gatherings. He’s a long term name. I mentioned hearing his name in the ’70s from Adelaide and he corrected me to the ’60s. Then he was telling a visiting Canadian saxist that he’d played at the Montreal Jazz Festival, and it was big, everyone was there, Miles… I think of Art Blakey and Paul Motion, serious and respected, who gathered such important musicians around them.
This is a trio formed out of the Melbourne Women’s International Jazz Festival four years back. There’s a air of caring here and Allan mentioned it. The music is gentle, the volume is low – mostly – and the listening is obvious. Andrea’s tone is a thing of Heaven, the lightest touch that speaks of her attachment and love of playing. It’s obvious as she sits, bent over the keys, smiling. This is intimate; you feel privileged to be allowed into this space. Tamara, too. It’s a heavier instrument and her strings are not light. As bassists interminably do, we discussed strings and setups (Tamara, excuse me). She obviously works to get the sounds from her bass. It’s quite a hard sound, with short sustain, played expressively and very melodically. She grimaces with some notes. She often sings with phrases. It’s a recommendation made to many players, to sing with solos to avoid muscle memory and cliches. Tamara is not faking.
This is clearly real. And the old man of the set is the host and raconteur, introducing with wit and affection. His playing is also of the lightest touch, switching through mallets and sticks (not sure if I remember brushes), but can also be explosive, louder, just once I noticed it drowning out the rest, but always responsive as the wise and experienced can be.
Their music was mainly original. Tamara’s Lullaby at the end was a clear favourite of the audience and a feature for the band, but there were a string of others, like Tamara’s Travellers or Andrea’s That day or Allan’s Cyclosporine. They all wrote. They played Monk’s Hackensack and I think it was an another Andrea original that had clear strains of Monk. They played Fats Waller’s most perfect jazz tune, Jitterbug waltz. They had started with Henry Mancini’s Days of wine and roses. From the top, this was softly spoken and richly altered. The tune only became evident after perhaps a chorus of Andrea’s improvisation. Then even when the cycles were obvious, the phrasing remained displaced, sequenced, expansive over a patter of busy drums and the bass working the changes. This is classic piano trio stuff; the stuff of legend. Andrea said later that Bill Evans had a light touch. I checked Youtube. Bill’s touch was somewhat heavier than Andrea’s, but I felt in company like that. Invited to an intimate space by fluent but reflective hosts; entertaining but not entertainment. A gift. My theology is rusty, but I could imagine that’s what Heaven is, or is said to be. Allan Browne (drums), Tamara Murphy (bass) and Andrea Keller (piano) performed at Bennett’s Lane.