Founded by Paul Grabowsky in 1994, The Australian Art Orchestra has built an unparalleled reputation for the breadth and quality of its output. Initially conceived as a contemporary jazz orchestra the group was soon recognised as a serious commissioner and interpreter of new notated works. It also developed a reputation for cross-cultural collaborations that were more ambitious than anything seen in Australian music previously and it delved into hybrid forms well before the terminology for such approaches became commonplace.
The AAO’s work constantly seeks to stretch genres and break down the barriers separating disciplines, forms and cultures. It explores the interstices between the avant-garde and the traditional, between art and popular music, between electronic and acoustic approaches, and creates works that traverse the continuum between improvised and notated forms.
In January 2013, the AAO entered a new period of artistic leadership under the guidance of Artistic Director, Peter Knight. Knight is an internationally acclaimed composer, trumpeter and sound artist who has toured extensively throughout Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, garnering wide acclaim for an eclectic approach that integrates jazz, world music, and experimental traditions.
With its multi-faceted programming initiatives, the AAO fosters and supports a strong and vibrant local contemporary music scene drawing inspiration from Australia’s cultural diversity. Central to this is an ongoing dedication to nurturing and deepening its dialogues with Australian indigenous cultures as well as maintaining strong connections with artistic collaborators in India, Korea, China and Indonesia. The Orchestra has a record of commitment to the notion of a future in which truly new music that integrates Asian and Western influences is part of the cultural fabric of our region.
The Australian Art Orchestra regularly tours both locally and internationally with recent cities including Hong Kong, Toronto, Paris, London, Brisbane and Chennai. It has won numerous awards for its work including three Australian Jazz Bell awards (most recently in 2014), the 2014 AMC/APRA Art Music Award ‘Excellence by an Organisation’, 2013 AMC/APRA Art Music Award ‘Performance of the Year’, a 2010 Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards (Group Award), the H C Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship (2010), a Helpmann Award (2004), and a 2009 Classical Music award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Australian Music in a Regional Area’.
Barney is a special piano player with that certain heart and touch, so he has great possibilities. He’s a genuine musician, not just a skilled artist. There’s a certain touch that I’m talking about. It’s hard to explain, but he has that
Barney has scored some award winning films including ;
Pushing The Elephant (PBS) Liberia: An Uncivil War (DISCOVERY/ NY TIMES) Motherland Afghanistan (PBS)
We All Fall Down: The American Mortgage Crisis (PBS)
He was nominated for a Grammy award in 2007 and also awarded the prestigious fellowship from the Australian Council for the Arts for 2007-2008 . He has performed or toured with ; Kurt Rosenwinkel, Dewey Redman, Maceo Parker, Doug Devries, Vince Jones, Kenny Garrett, Vernel Fornier, Badal Roy, Stefon Harris, Jimmy Cobb, Eddie Henderson, Gary Costello, Ben Monder, Mark Turner, Peter Apfelbaum, Bernie Worrell, Alan Browne, Billy Harper, Jim Black, Steve Turre and Roy Ayers.
COMPOSING AND ARRANGING
-Gospel Choir piece “Vanishing Point” collaboration with video artist Janet Biggs for Claire Oliver Gallery NYC
-New compostions for Guitar, Vibraphone and Piano and Voice premiered at The Stone NYC June 2008
-Sturgio Leone for Three Trombones and piano / Josh Roseman’s Water Surgeons
-New Works for Tabla, Cello and Kaval “Motherland Afghanistan”
-Various arrangements for The CNR Gospel Choir
-Overture for the Opera; ‘Two Lives In Flux and Vice Versa’ with Slave Pianos Collective
-Vincent Herring’s “Lady Liberty Big Band” performance Carnegie Hall
Featuring; Seamus Blake, Tom Harrell, Richie Goods, Steve Turre, Greg Hutcherson, Pamela Luss
-Renee Geyer and Octet Melbourne International Festival
-Slave Piano Collaboration with artists Danius Kesminas and Michael Stevenson for Lombard Freid Gallery Soho New York
was an alto saxophonist. He began his career in the late 1950s and remained active as a performer, composer and recording artist until near the end of his life.
From Sydney, McGann first came to prominence as part of a loose alliance of modern jazz musicians who performed at the El Rocco Jazz Cellar, Sydney in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
He led the Bernie McGann Trio and Bernie McGann Quartet through his career. The most well-known lineup of the Trio was McGann (alto sax), John Pochee (drums), Lloyd Swanton (bass), with the addition of Warwick Alder (trumpet) in the quartet. However in his latter years, his regular quartet featured Andrew Dickeson (drums), Brendan Clarke (bass) and Warwick Alder (trumpet).
• 1974 – Founding member of The Last Straw (jazz group).
• 1980–82 – Played support to US jazz artists, including Freddie Hubbard, Lester Bowie, and Dave Liebman.
• 1981 – Played and recorded with US saxophonist Sonny Stitt.
• 1983 – Studied in New York on a grant from The Australia Council.
• 1986 – Bernie McGann Trio toured Australia with US saxophonist Dewey Redman.
• 1987 – Toured with The Last Straw to Tasmania. Recorded two albums, one trio and one quartet, for Emanem which received critical acclaim internationally
• 1988 – Toured Australia and USA with the Australian Jazz Orchestra, a special Bicentennial project. Feature artist in award-winning documentary film Beyond El Rocco. The Last Straw tour of New Zealand jazz festivals with an Australia Council international touring grant. Bernie McGann Trio played at London’s famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, before touring jazz festivals in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, India and Malaysia.
• 1989 – Solo artist at Auckland’s Jazz & Blues Festival. Appeared with The Last Straw at the prestigious Montreal Jazz Festival in Canada. Performed with Nat Adderley
• 1990 – Toured USSR with The Last Straw, performing to enthusiastic audiences at jazz festivals including Leningrad
• 1992 – ARIA award for Bernie McGann Trio CD ‘Ugly Beauty’, Spiral Scratch MO Award for Bernie McGann Trio in Jazz Group of the Year
• 1993 – Toured Canadian Jazz Festivals
• 1994 – Australian Mo Awards for Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year.
• 1995 – ARIA award for Bernie McGann Trio CD ‘McGann McGann’ on Rufus Records, which featured McGann originals
• 1996 – Toured Canada and Europe including Northsea Jazz Festival and Munchener Klaviersummer.
• 1997 – Bernie McGann Trio appeared at the Chicago Jazz Festival. ARIA award for Bernie McGann Trio CD Playground (Rufus Records).
• 1998 – Wins the Don Banks Music Award, the first time it has been awarded to a non-classical musician/composer. Launch of biography Bernie McGann: A Life in Jazz by Geoff Page (Kardooraire Press)