Jazz icon Barney McAll recruits Hiatus Kaiyote for his new album Precious Energy, the result is awesome

Barney McAll isn’t trying to surprise people, it’s just the way the music comes out. His new album, precious energyis a bigger surprise than most, partly because the world he did it in has been turned upside down by the pandemic, partly because the pianist/composer has added lyric writing to his skill set, and partly because his collaborators include members of Melbourne super-hip-soul-jazz band Hiatus Kaiyote.

For many musicians, working with HK players right now might mean a leap forward, but not for McAll. He spent 20 years in the New York band of former Miles Davis saxophonist Gary Bartz, and while based there his other associations included frontline jazz saxophonists Dewey Redman and Billy Harper. , soul greats Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker and the enigmatic pop star Sia, of whom he was musical director.

Barney Mcall, right, with members of Hiatus Kaiyote.Credit:

Since returning to Australia, he has continued to broaden his horizons, his projects ranging from jazz to choirs. He collaborated with Hiatus Kaiyote’s Simon Mavin (keyboards), Paul Bender (bass) and Perrin Moss (drums) on several projects, including Moss’ own band, before McAll reunited them with tenor saxophonist Julien Wilson, singer Rita Satch and others to forge a unique sound. , an exultant mark of soul music on precious energy. The project connects different areas of McAll’s career and is crowned by the involvement of Bartz, a much-sampled hero for everyone involved.

The impetus for the record embodies McAll’s vivid imagination. “I wanted to do something similar to the feeling I had when I was swimming in shallow waters, and the warm currents washed over me when I was a kid,” he says. “It’s kind of like a balm to myself after the past two years of chaos, and I hope other people find comfort in it – but I’m certainly not trying to say I’m doing some sort of healing music. It just helped me, and I really appreciate that.

Of the HK members, he says, “They’re all pretty brilliant on their own… They’re just really forward-thinking young people, and I always want to be involved and understand and learn from what’s going on, as opposed to what’s going on. that is happening. come.”

As McAll acknowledges, this echoes Miles Davis’ position. “Somebody said to Miles, ‘Do your players need to know about Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane and all those cats?’ It was in the 80s, and Miles said, “No, man, they just need to know what’s in the air today.” And then he said, “Lazy people try to look like us in the 60s”. Which I love, and I’ve always followed that… It’s good to try to find more parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed through the music.


McAll, who is helping Bartz write his autobiography, has played the saxophonist on some of his new songs. The latter liked them and agreed to contribute to the album, which happened via McAll by emailing him tracks to overdub. “He would call me in the middle of the night,” McAll says, “and say, ‘I’m on a roll. Send me whatever you want. So I would quickly get out of bed and send him stuff, and the next day all this amazing music was coming. I mean when you hear the gravity of his music, his sound and all the years – and Miles and all that stuff is in there – it really lifts the album. I feel very privileged to have someone like Bartz playing so well on it, mixed with the Hiatus Kaiyote rhythm section. I mean, it’s like a dream.

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