MIJF Congress: A salute to the great Allan Browne OAM

Allan Browne OAM was an influential drummer, composer, poet and mentor. First known for his work as founding member and drummer of The Red Onion Jazz Band, Allan toured internationally including shows at the Polish and Hungarian International Jazz Festival. A prolific recording artist, Allan won four jazz Bell awards and three ARIA Awards; was inducted into the Jazz Bell Hall of Fame and was a recipient of the Don Banks Award.

Across his five-decade career he worked with countless artists including Andrea Keller, Paul Grabowsky, Ade Monsbourgh, Herb Ellis, Milt Jackson, Barney Kessell, Mal Waldron, Urbie Green, Johnny Griffin and many more. Not only an influential musician, he was an advocate for the jazz scene; he served as Chair of the Melbourne Jazz Co-op, was the Patron of Stonnington Jazz Festival and spent three years on the music board of the Australia Council.

To others, Allan was a mentor, championing the next generation of jazz musicians including Eugene Ball, Sam Anning and Shannon Barnett. In this special panel conversation, hear from Allan’s collaborators, friends and family on his musical life and incredible contribution to the sector, reminding us how we can all learn something from his legacy.

Meet the Panelists

Tamara Murphy
Tamara Murphy is a bassist and composer. She has collaborated with some of Australia’s finest artists including Kate Miller-Heidke, Harry Angus, Clio, Ali McGregor, Stephen Magnusson and Paul Grabowsky. She appears on over 40 albums, including titles by her own ensembles. She won the 2011 PBS 106.7FM Young Elder of Jazz Commission; was nominated in 2019 for Best Jazz Album at the Music Victoria Awards; and nominated in the National Live Music Awards for Best Jazz Act. Her band Spirograph Studies released their second album ‘Lowlights’ in October 2021. She has a Master’s of Music Performance from the Victoria College of the Arts.

Margie Lou Dyer
Margie Lou Dyer is a composer, singer and pianist working in the Australian jazz scene for more than 50 years. Her gravelly, expressive voice is reminiscent of the best women of early jazz, such as Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday; and her blues tinged, heavy grooving, New Orleans-style piano playing is unique. Her decade long residency at St Kilda’s jazz bar and seafood restaurant “Claypots” has featured artists including her late partner, the multi Aria-Award winner Allan Browne on drums, Cameron Robbins on clarinet, Eugene ball on trumpet, bassist Howard Cairns and now her daughter Hayley Miro on washboard. Her forthcoming release ‘Survival Day’ by The Margie Lou Dyer Quintet will be released via ABC Jazz.

Paul Grabowsky
Paul Grabowsky AO is an ARIA-winning composer and pianist. Internationally recognized as one of Australia’s finest jazz musicians, he has worked with artists such as Branford Marsalis, Archie Roach, Paul Kelly, Kate Ceberano and Vince Jones. He served as commissioning Editor (Arts and Entertainment) for ABC TV, and has composed scores for opera, theatre and over 20 feature films and television shows in Australia, the UK and the US. He served as Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival and the Queensland Music Festival and was the founding Artistic Director of the Australian Art Orchestra. He is currently Executive Director of Monash University Performing Arts Centres.

Michael Tortoni
Michael Tortoni has an enviable reputation as a successful club owner, musician and passionate advocate for Australia’s vibrant jazz scene.

His career in music began in the 1970s as a central member and bass player in Melbourne’s successful glam-rock band Taste, touring with the likes of ACDC, Queen and Cold Chisel. He continued to perform in rock and jazz bands even as he worked as a stock-broker in the 90s and opened the Bennetts Lane Jazz Club in 1992 which was dubbed by Lonely Planet as “the world’s best jazz club” and during its operation hosted a slew of famous jazz and rock names from around the world before closing its doors in early 2017. Later that year, Tortoni returned with a new venture – The Jazzlab.

Tortoni has served on the Board of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival since 2001 and as the Festival’s Artistic Director since 2009 and continues to thrive on bringing great live jazz from around the world to Melbourne.

Eugene Ball – Artist/Artistic Director of Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues
Trumpet player and composer Eugene Ball has worked with artists including the Hoodangers, the Allan Browne Quintet, Andrea Keller, the Australian Art Orchestra, The Black Arm Band, The Bamboos, Tony Gould, Don Burrows, John Cale (Velvet Underground) and many more. His work has featured on countless recordings and television and film productions, including projects for Kate Ceberano, Eddie Perfect and Ali McGregor. He holds a Master’s Degree in Performance and Composition (Melbourne University) for which he was awarded a Melbourne Research Scholarship. He established the jazz fringe festival and the performance space ‘Lebowski’s’ and is currently co-artistic director of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues.

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