Mooroolbark, Barney McAll CD review by John McBeath. This album was also announced as the 2015 Best Jazz Album by the ARIA’s today. Congratulations Barney.

Previously published by the Australian


Album:  Mooroolbark
Artist:    Barney McAll
Release Date: June 2015
Label:    ABC Jazz

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After 17 productive years in New York, pianist/composer Barney McAll returned to Australia to take up the 2015 Sydney-based Peggy Glanville-Hicks composer residency.

His prolific career includes performances on over 70 recordings, many of which he arranged, composed, and led, often featuring stellar international artists.

Mooroolbark, a tribute to the Melbourne suburb where McAll grew up consists of nine originals, recorded at the ABC studios Sydney, and one track, Apple Tree recorded live at the 2013 Wangaratta Jazz Festival. McAll launched the album at this year’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival where his trio’s performance of Apple Tree reaching an apex of superbly timed, high level, knockout funk brought the house down.

The other tracks feature McAll leading the full quintet ASIO – Australian Symbiotic Improvisers Orbit – a transcendent ensemble whose rhythm section of bassist Jonathan Zwartz and Simon Barker on drums substructurally reinforcing McAll’s piano is arguably the best in the country.

Saxophonist Julian Wilson and Stephen Magnusson on guitar work together superbly interpreting these individualistic compositions which utilise dense and unpredictable harmonies, yet remain curiously melodic.

A good example is Transformations, at first a moody piece deftly pairing unison piano and guitar – a guitar solo is a standout – and Wilson supplies altered tonality on alto clarinet as the piece evolves from its mysterioso piano and bass opening into staccato chords, flowing piano and a lively Latin beat.

A jagged rhythm pervades February, well-stocked with pianistic ideas, as all these are, and provides a masterfully quick tenor solo from Wilson.

This is an excellent collection of distinguished compositions, expertly arranged and played by some of Australia’s foremost jazz performers.

For just over 24 years I have been a freelance writer, publishing in that time a wide variety of genres: news items, live concert reviews, travel articles, features, personality profiles, and CD and book reviews. I have written for various in-flight magazines, The Adelaide Review, The Republican, The Bulletin, The Australian, The Advertiser, The Melbourne Herald Sun and several regional newspapers. In 1994 I won a national travel-writing prize sponsored by The Australian newspaper, which led to my writing regularly for that paper. Since 2003 I have been jazz critic for The Advertiser and The Australian newspapers, on average contributing weekly to each paper. In 2005 I won a national Jazz Writing Competition sponsored by the Wangaratta Jazz Festival.