Bernie McGann (alto sax) Lloyd Swantion (acoustic bass) John PochŽe (drums) Bernie 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 stated "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 Pochee'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. McGann has made numerous tours to Europe, the former Soviet bloc countries, Asia and Canada. In 1997 a highlight was performing on the main stage on closing night at the Chicago Jazz Festival which 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.
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.
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