We are reproducing below a review article by notable jazz critic and author, Geoff Page, who attended our Barney McAll Quintet concert.
But first, here are some links to 2 excellent videos of the concert’s songs that exemplify the subject matter of the review:
click here and here.
They were filmed and produced by ABC South East NSW’s Bill Brown with the assistance of expert music recorder Ian Battersby and our regular sound engineer, John McVeity.
Magnificent music, full house, standing ovation
The Barney McAll Quintet concert on Sunday 15 October at Bermagui’s Four Winds Windsong Pavilion was extraordinary by any measure. A first-rate grand piano in a purpose-built concert hall with a full-house of about 180 listeners was just the beginning.
The concert was arranged by Zephyrs Jazz, who commissioned Barney McAll’s Quintet comprising five of the country’s most accomplished musicians. The leader, Barney McAll (piano), has worked in New York for two decades and has recently moved back to Australia. Mike Rivett (tenor sax) won the 2016 National Jazz Award; Carl Morgan (guitar) won it in 2014. Both are outstanding young musicians with distinctive approaches to their instrument. Jonathan Zwartz (bass) and Hamish Stuart (drums) have both been at the heart of jazz in Sydney since the 1980s.
The performance featured the compositions on the group’s recently released CD, Hearing the Blood (Extra Celestial Arts). The music was both highly integrated and satisfyingly various. The solos seemed to emerge organically from (and return into) the composition rather than being merely an opportunity for virtuosity (which was often present nevertheless).
There were also significant shifts in dynamics and mood – a few pieces with the delicacy of French impressionism, others building to remarkably climactic solos by either Rivett or Morgan. The seamless unison playing of these two in the written sections seemed almost to generate a third front-line instrument that hadn’t been advertised. All five players were given solo space but the focus always remained on the composition as a whole.
McAll’s piano playing is by now convincingly personal but still with important traces of J.S.Bach, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and maybe even Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel – leavened, at times, with not a little humour, as in the almost raucous “Dogface Now!”.
For an audience which clearly contained quite a few jazz aficionados but also had many listeners for whom contemporary jazz was almost certainly not their first love, the quintet presented a program which all found hard to resist and which culminated in a rare (if almost un-Australian) standing ovation.
It’s a sign of the strength of Australian jazz at the moment that Zephyrs Jazz should not have too much trouble finding a group of comparable excellence for another full-house event next year. If only this sort of thing were done more widely around the country we’d all be a lot more blessed.
Geoff Page is organiser since 2003 of the monthly concert series, Jazz at the Village (previously Jazz at the Gods), in Canberra.
Also author of A Sudden Sentence in the Air: Jazz Poems and Aficionado: A Jazz Memoir and approximately thirty other books, predominantly poetry.