Barney McAll: Flashbacks (2009)
Since moving from Australia to NYC in 1997, pianist/composer Barney McAll has created an impressive resume that includes work with Gary Bartz, Billy Harper, Maceo Parker, Josh Roseman, and David Binney. But it may be his projects outside of jazz, in particular with independent film scoring— Motherland Afghanistan (Aubin Pictures/PBS Independent Lens) and Sacco and Vanzetti (Peter Miller/Ken Burns Florentine Films) and other works—that seem to shape his fertile imagination. It's not surprising that Flashbacks, his fifth recording as a leader, emanates a globalist awareness with contemporary urban storytelling.
A one-time touring member of Kurt Rosenwinkel's Heartcore band, McAll shares a simpatico bond with the celebrated guitarist, who is featured on all but one of the eight compositions. Their kinship is understood on the contagious hip "Elegua Dictate," the cyclonic metered title track, and the Arab-esque flavor of "End of Things Start of Things," which is reminiscent of Rosenwinkel's "All the Way to Rajasthan" from Heartcore (Verve, 2003). Rosenwinkel's identifiable voice coupled with McAll's encyclopedic playing skills are a perfect match.
Yet the music is not just about individualism but a realized collective sound (with strong contributions from talented musicians) that illuminates McAll's detailed sound sculpting. Acoustic piano inserted here, keyboard processing there, aural touches including the home grown "chucky" (a conglomeration of kalimba, glockenspiel, devices, and electronics), horn arrangements, and odd metered changes are embedded within each track, proving McAll to be a keen conceptualist.
Call it nouveau impressionism or just some plain old creativity, McAll's lexicon contains Cuban music, Bata rhythms, urban music, and improvisation. There's an "old school" Motown-ish vibe in "New Eyes" where Rosenwinkel delivers George Benson-like guitar chording, the gargantuan backbeat of "Red And Black Shifts" with gritty street rock or the harmonious "Circle Cycle" with soul serenading horns and an unexpected ending.
Flashbacks is an absorbing and captivating work of contemporary music.
Track Listing: Elegua Dictate; Flashback; End Of Things Start Of Things; New Eyes; Red And Black Shifts; Circle Cycle; Costello; Ten Days Of Silence.
Personnel: Barney McAll: piano, chucky, keyboards; Jay Rodriguez: tenor sax (1- 4, 6); Kurt Rosenwinkel: guitar (1-7); Josh Roseman: trombone (1-4, 6); Drew Gress: bass (2-4, 6, 7); Jonathan Maron: electric bass (1, 5); Mat Palvoka: bass (8); Obed Calvaire: drums (1-7); George Schuller: drums (8); Pedrito Martinez: bata, percussion (1, 3-5); Tiger Rex: alto sax (7).