VALE Bernie McGann

The recent death of Bernie McGann hasn't caused much of a blip in the National Press but for lovers of not only jazz but any ground breaking artistic pursuit it represents the irreplacable loss of one of Australia's greatest musical minds; our very own equivalent of a Sonny Rollins or Thelonius Monk.

Bernie had the true gift of a distinctive Australian sound, Paul Grabowsky memorably described his sax solos as sounding like  a kookaburra in full song, but had to fight against the criticism and rejection of the conservative jazz establishment for much of his career. But if you ask young jazz musos who their heroes are now the chances are Bernie will feature high on their lists. How the wheel turns.

Bernie hailed from Sydney but made regular trips to Melbourne. I treasure a memory of my first sighting of Bernie at Bennett's Lane in the early 00s. I had arrived unfashionably early, around 8.30(the bands don't go on until around 9.45) and there was Bernie with his unmistakable Easter Island statue slab of a face, sitting alone in the middle of the club, puffing away on a rolly, totally oblivious to the no smoking policy, and staring off into space.

Wish I'd picked up on him earlier but at least there is now a legacy of recordings to savour.