You may know him as the keyboardist and backing vocalist from The Cat Empire, but Ollie McGill is currently also doing some fine work of a different angle, heading up a new piano trio. Joining McGill are drummer James Hauptmann (Bluejuice) and star jazz double bassist Jonathan Zwartz, to complete an impressive trio of Aussie talent. Scoop caught the Ollie McGill trio at swanky Sydney jazz club Venue 505 for a killer midweek night of tunes.
With minimal interruption for banter, the music plays through two generous sets to a delighted muso crowd, and it soon becomes evident that this ain't a night of jazz standards. McGill and his trio showcase their original pieces and individual talents: there's a bit of jazz, a bit of funk, a lot of improvisation and, by the look of it, a lot of fun up onstage too.
A stellar drum solo leads into the first vocal number, after which we are treated intermittently to bursts of McGill’s voice cruising over the smooth instrumentals. It’s quickly clear these are proper jazz gurus, as they meld seamlessly and playfully interact during improv sets. Hauptmann mixes things up through the night playing with brushes, soft mallets, at one point a tambourine in one hand complementing fast footwork on the bass drum. During another epic solo he throws aside a stick for some direct skin on skin contact with his hand on the drums.
Later, with a cheeky smile to the crowd, McGill temporarily places a book on the strings inside his piano, which creates a quirky muffling effect that's well received by the curious onlookers. 505's full bar keeps the audience happy with antipasti and wine, and we revel in the excellent decision to brave the rain for a top gig.
Follow the Ollie McGill Trio for updates on future shows
Venue 505 is one of Sydney's leading jazz venues, check their website for details on upcoming local and international acts