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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

McGann’s the man

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Saturday, Star Court Theatre

He’s been called ‘tough, authentic with a Sonny Rollins Twist’ by Downbeat in the US. John Shand from SMH declared, ‘Sound becomes music when it engages the listener’s emotions, and there is no more instantly engaging or distinctive alto saxophone sound on the planet than Bernie McGann’s’.

McGann first came to prominence as part of a loose alliance of modern jazz musicians who performed at the famous El Rocco Jazz Cellar in Kings Cross, Sydney in the 1960s wave of energetic modern jazz. McGann’s daring playing marked him as a serious soloist and, together with his striking compositions, he became a leading, accomplished jazz figure over the following decades.

Four of his albums have won ARIA awards and a MO Award and he has received the prestigious Australia Council Don Banks Music Award, as well as touring overseas extensively and playing with such world-class artists as Sonny Stitt, Dewey Redman and Dave Liebman. He also has his own biography, Bernie McGann: A Life in Jazz by Geoff Page. He has attracted wide critical acclaim here and abroad: ‘Bernie McGann’s sound is exciting and physical, as heated as any post-Coltrane modernist,’ Jerome Wilson, Options magazine (USA).

His current quartet is made up of four distinctive voices in Australian jazz: trumpeting legend Warwick Alder, who has collaborated with Bernie for decades; bassist Brendan Clarke; and drummer Andrew Dickeson. McGann’s playing is excellent, his phrasing clear and distinct, and possessed of a warm, full tone that more than compensates for the lack of a piano in the group. His quartet has been together for a number of years, evident from the group sound and interaction.

Saturday at Star Court Theatre, Lismore 7.30pm. Tickets $25/students $15.


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