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Interviews

Barney McAll: One to Watch

By Published: March 6, 2009
AAJ: On The Pulse segment you said the term 'jazz' was outmoded. What you mean? How does this relate to what you're doing?



BMcA: I suppose I would just prefer not to be considered a jazz musician so much as an improvising musician or even just simply a musician.



The word Jazz is too heavy with baggage at this stage. Many people who saw the Ken Burns documentary here in the USA would think I sounded just like Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
if you told them I was a jazz musician! I love music but it doesn't have to be classified, just good. I feel that classifications can be detrimental or harmful.



But you can find my CD filed under Jazz!



In terms of how it relates to what I'm doing, I of course come out of the Jazz tradition but I am seeking to make music, as opposed to Jazz.



AAJ: Tell us about working with Gary Bartz.

BMcA: I believe Gary is one of the greatest story teller musicians on Earth. I think the most important thing I've learnt working with Gazza is that you have to tell a story when you play, when you improvise. He is very connected to the sounds and lines he plays. He not only hears them but he feels them.



He is playing lines for no other reason but to express the moment, to express what he is feeling right then and there. In the nearly three years that I have been working with him he has never told me to play any specific thing, never told me to lay out, or to play any different to what I'm playing. He once told me to relax when I first joined the band and that's it. And I really appreciate and respect that. It means he allows the musicians he works with to do their thing and he lets the music unfold as it is—instead of egotistically trying to control it.



We were driving back to New York from a gig in Washington DC once and he was talking to me about how a lot of players might try to upstage each other or get the most applause etc, then he said "it's not about that, it's not about the ego, it's about all this," and he gestured to the landscape we were driving through. I like that. It speaks to me of the importance of life and how it should feed music and how it IS music.



Gary Bartz is also a link to the tradition of this music. He worked with Miles Davis, Art Blakey

Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
, Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
, McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
. etc. I just feel blessed to have the chance to work with him and to learn from him—mostly without him saying a word.

He was a stand up comic at one stage as well so it's also always a great laugh.



AAJ: Tell us about working and living in New York.



BMcA: Well ...have you ever heard what Jack Kerouac said about New York? He said something about it being like 'the rainbow in the oil slick.'



I like that analogy. It's a hideous rat race here in NY. But I love it. I love the music most of all and I love working with the superb musicians here. I have learnt so much here. The good stuff here, musically speaking, really does rub off on you. When you get a chance to perform with a really great musician or even just hearing one, you can feel the that something is going on. That you're receiving some lesson. It's as if certain players have such a history that every time they play its a happening and there is no alternative.



It's hard yakka dealing with this monstrosity of a city but I am enjoying it at the same time. I have paid plenty of dues here and things are going well for me now.



Earlier this year I played for the second time with Gary Bartz at the Village Vanguard. It was really amazing. That place is like a shrine or something. You can feel the residue of all the great music that has been made there and to play on that stage is very special.



There is a poem on the wall in the band room which says:



FOR MAX GORDON AND OTHERS SIMILARLY POSSESSED

Deep in the Vanguard Darkness
lovers enraptured by spirits
set time on its ear
'vibes' they say
is that ghosts



AAJ: What happens after this?



BMcA: Well I have just finally found a quiet apartment in Brooklyn where I will be able to play piano into the night so I'm really looking forward to writing a lot and putting together a new CD worth of music. I'm part of trombone player Josh Roseman

Josh Roseman
Josh Roseman

trombone
's new recording and that should be most interesting, to say the least. Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
b.1970
guitar
will be on it as well as the drummer Rodney Holmes and saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum
Peter Apfelbaum
Peter Apfelbaum
b.1960
various
.



I'm also recording a trio record soon with five-string cellist Rufus Cappadocia and tabla player Badal Roy

Badal Roy
Badal Roy

tablas
.



And lastly, I'm happy to say, I'm going to playing in Brasil with the great Dewey Redman

Dewey Redman
Dewey Redman
b.1931
sax, tenor
this October. I am really excited about this. Matt Wilson
Matt Wilson
Matt Wilson
b.1964
drums
will be playing drums too and I love his playing. Dewey just called me out of the blue.

That's really like the pot of gold at the END of the rainbow.



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