LEGENDARY alto saxophonist Bernie McGann has long been associated with drummer John Pochee, playing together in the Sydney scene since the late 1950s and winning numerous awards.
In a tribute to McGann's longevity and unique contribution to Australian jazz, this double album celebrates his 75th birthday.
All 10 quartet tracks feature McGann and trumpeter Warwick Alder; four numbers were recorded back in 2005 with Pochee and bassist Lloyd Swanton. The remainder, recorded this year, brought in bassist Brendan Clarke and Andrew Dickeson on drums.
McGann has lost none of his trademark abilities: the raw-toned edge, the unexpected leaps to the upper register, unorthodox lines and ceaseless invention are all here. If anything, McGann has an increased emphasis on a more romantic style of lyricism, evident in ballads such as a beautifully expressive Sweet and Lovely where the alto's aching melody statement has the trumpet moving in slow layers underneath.
There is a well-controlled sweetness too in The Breeze and I, opening with a Latin beat and alternating to a grooving straight four as the two long-term associates expertly interweave trumpet and alto lines.
Alder's solos are strong contributions throughout the collection, providing contrast in intelligent but not cerebral improvisations. McGann's great soul piece, Mex, is superbly executed as the two horns amalgamate with consummate precision in the joyous theme.
The harmonised beginning to Paul Desmond's Wendy is a triumph of voicing and timing between brass and reed, and when McGann bites into his solo the tension climbs as his unique tone, innovative ideas and faultless rhythmic feel combine for an exhilarating lift-off.
John McBeath ~ The Australian
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