After a series of 4 ARIA-winning studio albums McGann welcomes brilliant trumpeter Warwick Alder to a quartet for a live recording - a first for McGann lineups. The material - straight from his distinctive songbook mixing standards and his own classics – has the characteristic stamp of his live sets: lyricism and beautiful tone, driving energy, tremendous group interaction and a remarkable capacity to sustain intelligently unfolding solos.
Bern McGann was the first Jazz musician to win the Australia Council's Don Banks Award for an outstanding contribution to music (1998). It was a highpoint amid a swag of awards for his striking musicality and that of his Trio. In the 1980s the great US saxophonist, Dewey Redman, stepped off the plane in Sydney and asked "Where is Bernie McGann? He is a great musician". In 2000 the tough US magazine Cadence announced "If this guy was American he would have reached 'next big thing' status years ago"!
As with most true originals wider acclaim has been slow in coming but in the meantime we've been fortunate to have him among us opening our ears while forging a bold, exciting, freewheeling approach to modern jazz with his mix of original compositions and marvellous reworkings of standards and lesser known songs. Songs are now being written for him by other writers, while he continues to bring forth his own engaging tunes.
In fact, McGann's career, with drummer John Pochée's, goes back to the cradle of modern jazz in Australia in the 1950s. They were long distance apprentices whose access to their US masters was limited to hard to get recordings and rare visits to these shores. But their excitement at the music, intense practise and separation from the sources led to highly distinctive results - from his grip on the mouthpiece to his tone and phrasing McGann plays like no one else. They were definitely in the modern jazz tradition but more importantly and more interestingly they were characterful, exuberant exponents rather than pale, respectful imitators.
Pochée has a distinguished career in his own right and is leader of other ensembles that are vital to Australian jazz - Ten Part Invention, The Last Straw and The Engine Room. A renowned on and offstage storyteller he is a left handed drummer who plays a right-handed kit - a metaphor for the individuality irrepressible in his music. Decades of playing with McGann, who thrives on his energy and rhythmic sense, have created an almost telepathic rapport.
Swanton joined the Trio in 1982. Well known as leader of The catholics and co-leader of the unclassifiable cult band, The Necks, his contribution has cemented the Trio as a classic of its kind while his studio role as producer has helped make McGann's CDs standouts in recorded jazz anywhere. He has been highly valued as a member of Vince Jones' band and Clarion Fracture Zone among many others.
Alder joined the band in 2003. A powerful trumpeter whose roots are in bebop but whose strong individual voice reaches beyond that style, he is a natural partner for McGann. The musical relationship with McGann and Pochée reaches back almost twenty years through the influential small big band, Ten Part Invention.
McGann has made numerous tours to Europe, the former Soviet bloc countries, Asia and Canada. In 1997 a highlight was performing on the mainstage on closing night at the Chicago Jazz Festival that coincided with the US release of two of his albums. In July 2001 the McGann performed on a special stage at the prestigious Umbria Jazz Festival, Italy, after a personal invitation from its artistic director. A European tour, featuring performances at the Cork International Jazz Festival and the Bimhuis, Amsterdam have followed.
The Trio has won Best Jazz Album ARIA Awards for 'Ugly Beauty', ‘McGann', 'Playground' and ‘Bundeena’. The Last Straw, of which all three are members, has also won an ARIA. Live at Side On is the band’s first live release while the studio album, Blues for Pablo Too, is due for release in November.
The Trio has won two Mo Awards for live performance while McGann holds another for solo instrumentalist.
released October 3, 2005
Bern McGann alto saxophone
Warwick Alder trumpet
Lloyd Swanton acoustic bass
John Pochée drums
Recorded 13 March 2003 by Peter Nelson at Side On Café, Annandale
Mastered by Paul Bryant at Sony Studios, East Sydney
Recording prepared for release and produced by Lloyd Swanton
Photo by me
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