Des Cowley

Des Cowley
Des Cowley is Principal Librarian at State Library Victoria. He is co-curator of the Library’s permanent exhibition World of the Book and co-author of The World of the Book, published by Melbourne University Press in 2007.

The Calling (fortyfivedownstairs)

ABR Arts 07 May 2018
The Calling (fortyfivedownstairs)
The Calling is the fourth in a series of five large-scale concerts, each featuring a different ensemble, being performed at fortyfivedownstairs by multi-instrumentalist and composer Adam Simmons throughout 2017–18. The overarching title of the series, ‘The Usefulness of Art’, is inspired by a quote from sculptor Auguste Rodin: ‘I call useful all that gives happiness.’ In an age when the ... (read more)

Travelling Tales (fortyfivedownstairs)

ABR Arts 11 December 2017
Travelling Tales (fortyfivedownstairs)
Travelling Tales is the third instalment in a series of five concerts, entitled ‘The Usefulness of Art’, by multi-instrumentalist Adam Simmons, all taking place at fortyfivedownstairs. The first, Concerto for Piano and Toy Band, was performed in March this year, and the second, The Usefulness of Art, in August. The final two instalments are scheduled for May and July 2018. Travelling Tales wa ... (read more)

Des Cowley reviews 'The Library: A catalogue of wonders' by Stuart Kells

Online Exclusives 06 December 2017
Des Cowley reviews 'The Library: A catalogue of wonders' by Stuart Kells
In 2002, journalist Guy Rundle published a piece devoted to the little-known visit by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges to Melbourne in May 1938. During his ten-day stay, Borges spent time in the domed reading room of the State Library, a place he found ‘awe-inspiring, even overwhelming’. As a long-term reader of Borges, and having spent much of my working life at the Library, I felt elated ... (read more)

2017 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues

ABR Arts 08 November 2017
2017 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues
It was always going to be a risky decision. Earlier this year, the Board of the Wangaratta Festival dispensed with the services of Adrian Jackson, the artistic director who shaped the style and content of the Festival since its inception in 1990. In recent years, a combination of reduced funding and unfortunate weather conditions led to a drop in visitor numbers, and there was clearly a sense that ... (read more)

The Usefulness of Art (fortyfivedownstairs)

ABR Arts 28 August 2017
The Usefulness of Art (fortyfivedownstairs)
It seemed apt that Adam Simmons chose to perform his large-scale suite The Usefulness of Art in a space generally devoted to art and theatre, rather than in one of Melbourne’s jazz clubs. Incorporating visual design by Christine Crawshaw and Diokno Pasilan – wooden chairs hung from the ceiling amidst billowing clouds, recalling both a Duchamp readymade and a Magritte still life – the concert ... (read more)

2017 Melbourne International Jazz Festival

ABR Arts 19 June 2017
2017 Melbourne International Jazz Festival
Marking its twentieth anniversary, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival (MIJF) had much to celebrate in 2017. I can vividly recall the first Festival in 1998, a weekend-long event attended by what seemed like a handful of us, moving in unison between city venues. Even then, it proved a memorable experience, highlighted by three astonishing performances by Brad Mehldau, an up-and-coming pianis ... (read more)

Jazz Greats Weekend at Monash

ABR Arts 29 March 2017
Jazz Greats Weekend at Monash
That Monash University has become a national leader in jazz studies is far from surprising when we consider the calibre of its teaching staff: pianist and composer Paul Grabowsky, saxophonist Rob Burke, trumpeter Paul Williamson, and trombonist Jordon Murray, among others. Students have had the opportunity to perform and record with visiting international artists such as Dave Douglas, Enrico Rava, ... (read more)

2016 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues

ABR Arts 08 November 2016
2016 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues
Ahead of this year’s Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, Artistic Director Adrian Jackson acknowledged that while he had not intended to develop any specific theme for this year’s program, one had unwittingly emerged: the significant contribution of female musicians to jazz in this country. Thankfully, this was anything but a rallying cry for affirmative action: the composers and instrument ... (read more)

Des Cowley reviews 'Conversations in Jazz: The Ralph J. Gleason interviews' edited by Toby Gleason

November 2016, no. 386 25 October 2016
Des Cowley reviews 'Conversations in Jazz: The Ralph J. Gleason interviews' edited by Toby Gleason
It is a testament to Ralph J. Gleason’s standing in the jazz community, at the time these interviews were made, that a composer of the stature of Duke Ellington would consider him a conversational equal. Says Ellington: ‘I feel like I’m on the same level with you because you have proven that you are a great listener.’ While far from a household name these days, Gleason’s contributions to ... (read more)

2016 Melbourne International Jazz Festival

ABR Arts 15 June 2016
2016 Melbourne International Jazz Festival
In his introduction to the opening night concert of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival (MIJF), Michael Tortoni, the artistic director, noted that some 43,000 patrons were expected to attend over 120 concerts during this year's program. That is a lot of devotees to a musical form often marginalised, or perceived as difficult. Certainly, it is a sure sign of endorsement not just for contempor ... (read more)
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