Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

International Jazz Day in Australia: Continental Connections

On IJD 2019, Oz took center stage—and seemed like anything but a far-off land

James Morrison and William Barton at the International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert, Melbourne, Australia, April 30, 2019
James Morrison (left) and William Barton at the International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert, Melbourne, Australia, April 30, 2019 (photo: Steve Mundinger/Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz)

The late Bernie McGann, a hugely influential figure in the history of Australian jazz, studied and played in New York, collaborated with Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Stitt, Dave Liebman and others, and toured extensively. But he also enjoyed a life of solace in a small picturesque coastal town south of Sydney, working as a postman and practicing his saxophone in the meditative surroundings of the bush.

McGann’s history can be taken as metaphor writ large: Artistic brilliance against gorgeous isolation seems an overarching theme of Australia’s century-deep jazz heritage, which burgeoned through a dance- and swing-band craze, developed an enduring early-jazz tradition, and has branched out into all varieties of modernism. “We’re on an island in the South Pacific,” the trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist James Morrison pointed out to me late in the evening of Tuesday, April 30. Morrison is a jazz educator who runs a namesake academy, a facilitator for the music and jazz’s premier public ambassador in Australia, with a profile like Wynton Marsalis’ in the States or Igor Butman’s in Russia.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.

Evan Haga

Evan Haga worked as an editor and writer at JazzTimes from 2006 to 2018. He is currently the Jazz Curator at TIDAL, and his writing has appeared at RollingStone.com, NPR MusicBillboard and other outlets.