featuring Ben Monder, Billy Harper, Jeff Ballard, Ben Street, Vincent Herring
This one features Barney McAll on piano, Billy Harper on tenor sax, Ben Monder on guitar (1 track only), Vincent Herring on alto sax, Josh Roseman on trombone, Ben Street on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums. This disc was recorded in New York in 1998, but not released until 2005. Australian pianist Barney McAll seems to have come from nowhere and recently released some ten discs with varying personnel, many of who come from New York. ‘Widening Circles’ opens with a fine, elegant, laid-back theme with some strong yet sublime piano and guitar (the ubiquitous Ben Monder) interplay. This piece is very deceptive, what sounds carefree and lyrical turns into some more complex yet dream-like escalations. This seems to be the overall game plan for most of these tunes: sunny melodies with some more surprising twists and inspired solos. Billy Harper is known as an intense fire-breathing Trane-like tenor man, but here he lays back a bit and still plays some great slow-burning solos. Barney McAll wrote all but one of the songs here. He chose the traditional song “Don’t Be Weary Traveler” and it has a touching, gospelish melody that is played eloquently by Barney’s superb ensemble. I like that this entire disc is laid back yet quietly engaging thoughout. This is no small feat I assure you. Here’s hoping that it won’t be ignored by “jazz radio” like WBGO.
-Downtown Music Gallery New York
“This album is a triumph, impossible not to like. There is an engaging directness and vitality in McAlls work, at once sophisticated yet guileless. His bright, chunky tunes are remarkably buoyant, at times romantic, instantly hummable. McAlls brilliance is every- where, drawing beautiful voicings out of the horns and his own piano: his sextet sounds orchestral.”
-The Australian Financial Review
“Rather than tentatively nibbling at the Big Apple, pianist Barney McAll has bitten into the core. Dancing around all these fine players is McAlls piano, always an enlivening influ-ence, imbued with authority and great logic, as compelling as a finely honed short story”.
-The Sydney Morning Herald
“This album reveals a mature artist in his prime. Confident, inventive and involving as his own solos are, perhaps the most impressive aspect of this set is McAlls writing. His comp- ositions combine memorable melodies and rhythmic motifs, but best of all is his use of harmony: some of his note combinations for frontline are exquisite – ****1/2 -Rhythms Magazine
“As a pianist his attack is certainly engaging. But the biggest strengths here are those compositional skills and arrangements and carefully layered harmonies throughout. He gives plenty of space for his crew to stretch out, providing color, which is appropriate given Herrings intensity levels and Harpers swirling attack”. -The Age
“(McAll’s) ability to craft memorable themes is matched by a feel for the atmospheric..Now established on the intensely competitive New York jazz scene, he plays here with some of the citys leading musicians. The music is utterly contemporary, McAll demonstrating throughout that he is a talented composer as well as gifted keyboardist” – Rolling Stone Magazine
McAll leads this band with apparent ease in this great release, holding up superbly built tunes for these musicians and always having great ideas to expand on when it is his time to solo. McAll puts attention on every detail and his own widening circles of listeners will grow with this great release. – Mixdown Magazine