Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hiatus Listening: Rediscovering Rufus Records

Laying around doing nothing has always been an Achille's Heel for me.  When I wake up, my mind is engaged, either thinking about what I need to do today, what I should have done yesterday, what music I want to listen to, reviews I need to finish, or, the one that really makes me alert, how the cat needs to be fed before she shreds the love-seat.  There is usually nothing logical about this process (save for wanting throw a shoe at the cat) - basically, I "go with the (mental) flow."

The other morning as I was scrolling through the jazz selections on, I came across an album by the Alister Spence Trio, an ensemble based in Australia that recorded on the Rufus Records label. I had been introduced to the Trio and the record label when I wrote for Bob Rusch's CADENCE Magazine in the 1990s, discovering music from halfway around the world that resonated with a person living in CT.  Mr. Rusch sent me music created by saxophonist Bernie McGann (pictured above), by Ten Part Invention (a little big band led by drummer John Pochée), by pianist Tim Stevens, and others.  I began an email correspondence with label president Tim Dunn - we chatted about all sorts of things but I was most impressed by Mr Dunn's dedication to original music created by Australian musicians.  Like CrissCross Records and Gerry Teekens, François Zalacain at Sunnyside Records, Marc Free and Nick O'Toole at Posi-Tone Records, Manfred Eicher and ECM, Tim Dunn knows what he likes to hear and works hard to spread the word and the sounds. After I stopped writing for CADENCE and about music for a while, Mr. Dunn and I lost touch.

After I discovered that had the Spence Trio recording, I typed in the name "Bernie McGann" and was pleased to see that the alto saxophonist (who passed in 2013 at the age of 76) had a number of live recordings released several years ago.  On Friday, the day that Bandcamp decided to donate its share of profits from sales to the Transgender Law Center, an organization based in Oakland, CA, whose mission is "to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression." Bandcamp's 24-hour sale netted, approximately, $700,000 for the Law Center.  Yes, this reviewer purchased "Wending" by Bernie McGann (90 minutes of live recordings from 2005 and 2012).

I also rediscovered Stevens - I already had in my possession two of his earlier recordings, a splendid Trio CD and a wonderful, exploratory, solo piano album from 2002 titled "Freehand."  His latest recording, "Media Vita", is his fourth solo endeavor and features 12 pieces composed during 2016 when the Melbourne-based musician wrote a new song every day.  I purchased that album as well and will review it at a later date (the pile of CDs waiting to reviewed is awfully high - no complaints, just reporting the facts) so it will be a few weeks.  On first listen, I am pleased by the attractive melodies and how they flow. No question that Stevens is a technically impressive piano but this music has much more emotion than technique - in fact, the composer writes that "there is no free improvisation."

One of my favorite McGann recordings is "Bundeena", an album which features one of my Top 100 songs (really, who can narrow a list down to 10 after listening to music for over 60 years), a song titled "Big Moon" composed by bassist Lloyd Swanton (from The Necks).  Named for the town in which McGann lived, located on the southern outskirts of Sydney along the bay from which the town takes its name, the trio recording blends a myriad of influences (Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Lester Young, etc) to create a delightful 52-minute experience.  McGann was an adventurous player, not adhering to one genre at any time, and his rhythm section - bassist Swanton and drummer Pochée - keep right up, pushing, prodding, driving, and smoothing the way.

Here's "Big Moon" and, below that, the opening track from "Media Vita":

Find out more about the record label by going to To find out more about pianist and composer Tim Stevens, go to

No comments:

Post a Comment