‘The opening saxophone notes of The Breeze and I will curl your hair. Their sound, impact, ideas and originality oblige this long-term Bernie McGann fan to reassess previous assertions that he is one of the three most distinctive living alto saxophonists (with Ornette Coleman and Arthur Blythe). McGann is among the most distinctive musicians of any ilk. Ever…Magnificent.’ John Shand Sydney Morning Herald

Rufus Records have made us aware of new live music from the late great, Bernie McGann from 1966.  Opening up a new area of his music, it is special in that this period is almost unrecorded. New Zealand label SARANG BANG RECORDS, Gianmarco  Liguori’s passion, has released a recording with Kim Patterson trumpet,  Bobby Gebert piano,  Andy Brown bass, George Neidorf drums

More details are available on the SARANG BANG RECORDS website and can be listened to at Bandcamp: Sarangbangrecords.bandcamp.com/album/1966-2

It’s part of an enthralling history that several main characters and their friends (John Pochee for starters) are starting to reveal.

bernie mcgann

Bernie McGann, or Bern, as he preferred, embarked on a career as a professional musician in the 1950s in Sydney, and from stories I’ve heard from Bob Bertles, John Pochée, Dave Levy and others, it was an exciting time for young aspiring jazz musicians. Parallel to finding gigs and playing, they created a news network and, ferret-like, ears would perk at word of the arrival in town of new records, usually from the States. Soon, pretty intense driving across and around the harbour preceded intense and repeated listening sessions.

McGann, Pochée and friends were particularly inspired by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, each player, McGann now on alto sax, finding a model in that band. They were long-distance apprentices who worked long and hard at developing their own sound.

We have been among the beneficiaries as they found their own paths to music-making and forged their own unique sounds. McGann had a distinctive career that demonstrated deep musicality. Over the years McGann’s trio and quartet toured to the US, Europe and elsewhere, presenting their music at clubs and festivals and delighting audiences and critics. Here his lineups have won many awards for live performance and four ARIA Awards for Best Jazz Album, while he has received the Australia Council’s Don Banks Music Award which ‘honour(s) an artist of high distinction who has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to Australia music over a period of many years’.

McGann was a modest, even self-effacing man. He had a clear musical conception, that didn’t follow an obvious route to expression. He appeared happiest letting his music be the statement that others respond to. That statement is clear and strongly present in Wending, which is an adornment both to his recording catalogue, and a career which grew from an inspiration and over the years has inspired audiences and new generations of aspiring musicians.

Tim Dunn

A comprehensive back catalogue of McGann is available on the Rufus website.