The Heads




What’s hits you between the eyes is the sheer energy! Four 24-year-olds playing their take on bebop at full-throttle and with no seatbelts. You feel it in your nerve-endings and racing heart, as if becoming a participant in the spiralling excitement. The Heads were future Oz jazz royalty: Bernie McGann (alto saxophone), Dave MacRae (piano, marimba), Andy Browne (Bass) and John Pochee (drums), who in 1964 accepted a four-night-a-week residency at Melbourne’s Fat Black Pussycat. Some gigs were bootlegged, and those tapes, tidied up and released by McRae, are a treasure both musically and historically.

Here was modern jazz unfolding in Australia on its own terms, with McGann already sounding like no one else on the planet: his braying, coarse sound, mostly one of jubilation, was also flecked with moments of sweeter sadness. McRae’s piano playing is super-sophisticated and rhythmically infectious, and his marimba playing a revelation. Pochee, too, was already a master of making his propulsive grooves radiate warmth. If Brown’s driving bass suffers somewhat from the imperfect recording, just turn up the volume to Pussycat level, and be transported back to a thrilling time in Oz jazz.