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Des Cowley

Des Cowley

Des Cowley is former Principal Librarian at State Library Victoria, and author of The World of the Book, published by Melbourne University Press in 2007. He regularly publishes on music for Australian Book Review, Rhythms, Dingo, and other journals.

‘Melbourne Rare Book Week reaches a milestone’ by Des Cowley

Book Talk 24 June 2024
In 2024, Melbourne Rare Book Week celebrates its tenth anniversary. The brainchild of antiquarian bookseller Kay Craddock, it was founded in 2012, in part to evolve and educate a new generation of book lovers; but also to support Melbourne’s then recent designation as a City of Literature. The idea was simple but effective: to harness Melbourne’s many institutions – libraries, galleries, mu ... (read more)

'Paul Grabowsky: Solo Piano: A rare and virtuosic solo recital' by Des Cowley

ABR Arts 11 June 2024
I recall the first time I saw pianist Paul Grabowsky play. The occasion was the launch of his debut album Six by Three, recorded with his then trio of bassist Gary Costello and drummer Allan Browne. The recital took place on a Sunday afternoon, in 1989, if memory serves, in a downstairs gallery in Flinders Lane. Despite an already well-honed interest in jazz, I was there only because a casual acqu ... (read more)

Des Cowley reviews ‘Fat Chance: Journalism poems’ by Kent MacCarter

April 2024, no. 463 25 March 2024
Fat chance. A million to one. Buckley’s. We’ve all come across bizarre tales of survival that defy belief. Take the case of sixty-year-old Hiromitsu Shinkawa, found floating ten miles out to sea, clinging to the roof of his house, days after a tsunami wiped out his home town in the Fukushima prefecture of Japan in 2011. What were the odds? Shinkawa doesn’t feature in Kent MacCarter’s Fat ... (read more)

Des Cowley reviews 'Full Coverage: A history of rock journalism in Australia' by Samuel J. Fell

January-February 2024, no. 461 19 December 2023
In the film Almost Famous (2000), director Cameron Crowe’s alter ego, fifteen-year-old William Miller, doggedly pursues his dream of breaking into rock journalism. He cold-calls legendary music journalist Lester Bangs (marvellously played by a dishevelled Philip Seymour Hoffman). Next thing we know, he is commissioned by Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres to head out on the road with fictitiou ... (read more)

'Melbourne International Jazz Festival: Our most exciting MIJF to date' by Des Cowley

ABR Arts 30 October 2023
Building on the success of the 2022 Melbourne International Jazz Festival (MIJF) – never guaranteed, coming off Melbourne’s lockdowns – the MJIF’s artistic team, at first glance, looked to have voted for more of the same, casting a wide net to ensure that plenty of musical diversity was on offer. After the triumph of last year’s Big Saturday event at Sidney Myer Music Bowl, featuring New ... (read more)

'All Rise: A euphoric evening led by Wynton Masalis' by Des Cowley

ABR Arts 28 August 2023
When Wynton Marsalis’s début album appeared on CBS Records in 1982, with its moody, pensive black and white cover portrait of the then twenty-year-old trumpeter, few could have predicted where his career was headed. Sure, he had performed Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto with the New Orleans Philharmonic at fourteen, and further honed his craft in the trumpet chair of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. ... (read more)

'Melbourne Jazz Co-Operative: A fortieth-birthday celebration' by Des Cowley

ABR Arts 30 May 2023
It is hard to believe that an organisation founded forty years ago could still be flourishing today under the helm of its original founder. When current creative director Martin Jackson, in 1982, conceived the idea of a co-operative aimed at fostering the development of jazz and improvised music in Melbourne, I doubt he could have foreseen where it might lead. But here we are, four decades on, par ... (read more)

'Melbourne International Jazz Festival: The state of jazz in Australia' by Des Cowley

ABR Arts 25 October 2022
The pandemic was always destined to cast a long shadow, leaving promoters and festivals twitchy when it came to long-term planning. The Melbourne International Jazz Festival (MIJF), like so many other events, swallowed a bitter pill in 2021, as the city went into its sixth lockdown just weeks out, scuttling months of preparation. A quick scramble saw a scaled-back, hastily assembled program of exc ... (read more)

‘A New Poetry Imprint: Life Before Man’ by Des Cowley

Book Talk 16 February 2022
Life Before Man (LBM), the poetry imprint of Gazebo Books, was founded by artist and publisher Phil Day in 2020. To date, seven books have been published, including works by Subhash Jaireth, Cassandra Atherton, Anthony Lawrence, Gary Catalano, and Alex Selenitsch. Forthcoming is a substantial international anthology of prose poetry, titled Alcatraz. The books in the series strive for a recognisab ... (read more)

The 2021 Melbourne International Jazz Festival

ABR Arts 07 December 2021
It was never going to be a normal Melbourne International Jazz Festival. After all, there was nothing normal about the past two years. Having been forced to cancel in 2020, the festival made the decision to shift the 2021 event from its usual June timeslot to mid-October, perhaps hoping the extra few months might make a difference. The program was duly issued, tickets both offered and sold. Clearl ... (read more)
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