Bernie McGann

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Bernie McGann
Seated man holding a saxophone
McGann in 2011
Background information
Birth nameBernard Francis McGann
Born(1937-06-22)22 June 1937
Granville, New South Wales, Australia
OriginSydney, Australia
Died17 September 2013(2013-09-17) (aged 76)
InstrumentsAlto saxophone
LabelsRufus Records
Associated actsThe Last Straw
Bernie McGann Trio
Bernie McGann Quartet

Bernard Francis "Bernie" McGann (22 June 1937 – 17 September 2013)[1] was an Australian jazz alto saxophone player. 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.[2]

Born in Granville, New South Wales, in Sydney's western suburbs, McGann first came to prominence as part of a loose alliance of modern jazz musicians who performed at the El Rocco Jazz Cellar in Kings Cross, Sydney in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He had an enduring collaboration with drummer John Pochee.[3]

During the 1960s and early 1970s, McGann (like many other local jazz players) also performed with rock and pop groups and as a session musician, and ca. 1970 he was a member of the Sydney rock-soul band Southern Comfort.

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.

McGann died on 17 September 2013, following complications from heart surgery. He was 76.[1]

Career highlights[edit]

  • 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.[4] 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[3]
  • 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.[5] Launch of biography Bernie McGann: A Life in Jazz by Geoff Page (Kardooraire Press)


  1. ^ a b John Shand (September 18, 2013). "Jazz saxophonist Bernie McGann dead at 76". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  2. ^ "Bernie McCann". Wellington Jazz Festival 2009. Archived from the original on 10 July 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2010.
  3. ^ a b Shand, John (2008). Jazz: The Australian Accent. UNSW Press. pp. 24–35. ISBN 978-1-921410-14-7.
  4. ^ Beyond El Rocco, Ronin Films, 1988.
  5. ^ "Don Banks Music Award". Australian Music Centre. Retrieved 20 January 2010.