Recently the marvellous Mal Stanley discovered a recording that he had made of Allan Browne, Nick Haywood and myself at the 2000 Melbourne International Jazz Festival, for Jim McLeod’s Jazztrack on ABC Classic FM. Mal says he’d forgotten about it entirely but was undertaking an archive search and came across it, so he broadcast it once again on Jazztrack Live, at ABC Jazz.
I listened, and, well, I’d not heard this stuff since we played it, so it was both beautiful and rather difficult. We play ‘Esj”, which was written for Sall, and was a bit of a hit for us. (Al could never quite pronounce the title, which is the initials SJ without the last ‘A’ sound. A nickname that I gave Sall a million years ago.) There is a piano introduction that sounds to me pretty well-organised, but when the band came in I lost it. We never recorded this piece for release, although I have a recording of its premiere that I made in performance at Bennetts Lane, and although it’s on my first album with Dave Beck and Ben Robertson, Browne – Haywood – Stevens brought it into being. We ‘created’ it, in dramatic terms. Hearing it played twenty-two years later, quite well I think, and then hearing Al speak to the audience – it’s beautiful, but it’s difficult.
The playlist for the MIJF gig is almost entirely originals; we play Charlie Parker’s ‘Quasimodo’ (sometimes listed as ‘Quasimado’) but that’s it for others’ work. I’ve written already about what a joyful and fortunate experience it was to have Al and Nick so receptive to my composition, and I believe that in the five years we worked together, mostly at Bennetts Lane, we did make something of our own. Nick and I have both had people tell us how important they found BHS, how inspiring, how consoling, whatever. Our audiences at Bennetts were sometimes very small, but then again sometimes they were quite sizeable; there was no predicting but we trundled along as often as we could to do our thing.
I used to own a DAT recorder, although it was stolen from Sall’s and my place in West Hawthorn one time when we were out of town. Sall lost a mess of jewellery too, but was fortunate that she’d left her work computer at work. This DAT machine, with a single stereo mic, I set up at Bennetts each Monday as we played, and now I have twenty-five volumes of our live performance that at the moment I’m listening back to.
When I wrote to Mal to thank him for having found the recording and re-presented it, he said that perhaps it was the only live recording of the band. I was obliged to correct him and have him know about my twenty-five gigs. He said, perhaps you should do a boxed set. I laughed a little about the impracticality of this but then I thought: what if I went through all that live stuff and found an album’s worth? Why not share it? The sound is perfectly acceptable and if people still do love the band so much then perhaps another volume might go down well.
So the plan is that, in collaboration with Nick, I’ll select some items for release and then we’ll narrow it down to, say, an hour’s music, and release a third Browne – Haywood – Stevens album digitally. Are you interested?