Bernie McGann played at Geoff Page’s “Jazz in Concert at the Gods” on 2 May 2006.
Since I first saw Bernie McGann at “Morgan’s Feedwell” in Glebe, Sydney, over 20 years ago, he has mellowed yet retained the inventiveness and thoughtfulness that has made him stand out in the Australian and global jazz scenes. In those days the “freer” exuberance of a certain lineage was evident. Bernie would exhibit a musical vitality that would leave the average heavy wotsit rock band for dead despite the obvious aggro of unbridled decibels. I’ve seen him play a number of times since then and have never been disappointed.
On this night, as on others, in the intimate surroundings of the “Gods”, one had a very 50s to 60s ‘jazz club’ experience, without the smoke; I’m not referring to the preponderant age sample present – we get to see some more youthful types at the gigs – not just the musos!
Bernie, as usual, worked well with the other members of the band. There was Warwick Alder on trumpet, Lloyd Swanton on bass and the young Alex Masso on drums, replacing John Pochée who was unable to make it on the night.
Bernie manages to craft velvet to gutsy sounds that meld with the other players’ contributions in a frequently retiring manner. No shove it in your face arrogance here. He can still teach a few the value of vibrant yet unassuming performances. Sure, the years have softened the sharpest edges of his phrases, yet there are enough examples of the current variety to make it all very worthwhile.
Between the sets I had a brief chat with Bernie. I purchased a couple of his recent offerings: ‘Blues for Pablo too’ and ‘Live at Side on’– what can I say? Excellent.
He still seems very much “driven” by his music, and, when I asked him if he saw himself playing for some time yet, he answered along the lines of “what else is there?” Good question.
Thanks to Gilles Rohan for this review. It's the first guest review for CJ. We welcome others. I can't attend everything, so get in touch if you can help. Probably the easiest way to add your input is to email a Letter to the editor. See the CJ's Letters page for instructions.