Bernie McGann at the Strawb

Joe Glaysher

Bulli, Australia

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I’ve experienced the sublime on one or two times in music. It isn’t comfortable.
Just before the Strawb closed to jazz Bernie McGann was booked in for two successive Thursdays. The first was a wet and miserable November night. The audience barely outnumbered Bernie’s trio. Bernie would have been on first name terms with everyone.
As the band set up I chatted with Bernie’s partner Addie. As the set started the music took an uncomfortable direction – the music unusually angular, ugly, expressive; the unaccompanied codas searing. Addie walked off shaking her head saying “he’s blown me away”. Throughout the set there was little or no applause – groans, muttered comments: “ Yes…”, “Fuck! …”. Heartfelt responses. No gratuitous bullshit.
A week later the band played at the same venue. High energy excellence, the band at it’s peak… but not coming near the previous week’s heights. At the interval I spoke to the drummer John Pochee. He said “It’s never the same – there’s always something you’ve never heard before with Bernie”.
I must have head Bernie a hundred rimes before that night, but since then I’ve not felt the need. I’ve heard something few others will ever hear,

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