Press & Reviews

Vista Needle is a new project of Steve Barry and Daniel Susnjar with Tom Botting on bass and they are touring the Eastern states. The spiel talks of influences of Paul Hindemith and Federico Mompou so I was a bit surprised to hear them warm up, before the gig, with a supremely delicate take on a sentimental standard, When I Fall In Love. But what a pleasure. Then the first tune of the night was another standard, Everything I Love. Both played with piano trio delicacy, great awareness and subtlety and flexibility by Tom, wonderful inventiveness by Steve, enjoying the sound of notes, then playing a flurry or colouring with all manner of chordal or scalar fills, and Daniel present but quiet and playing time and, at times, playing with time.

I was thinking this is more Bill Evans than Hindemith. But the concert was mainly originals and some takes on the early 20th century composers. Early on, a Hindemith fugue that was a minimal, single chord, groove with a dotted crochet feel. It sat with slight variation, more promising than delivering after the clarity of a few standards. There were two pieces by Federico Mompou, both from his Musica Calada. No.3 was given a Monk treatment with various time signatures. No.15 was more flowing, haunting dissonant melody. But VN is also a vehicle for originals. Steve provided three. One with that common title, Untitled, started quietly in three with finger percussion from Daniel, then developed to a strong middle with deep syncopation and determined solo from Tom and a gloriously modern-styled piano solo. I’m thinking this is bliss. Then Steve’s Organic Melody #1, which was much more open, time indeterminate, free-styled. Daniel provided a tune with dedication to several renowned Catalans (Mompou, Dali and Gaudi were mentioned), more a pensive mid-tempo jazz tune. Another great bass solo and Daniel’s first of two drum solos. I heard both his solos as intelligent dissection of time within a neatly overarching development to climax. Then a final tune by Steve, great solos all round, testing syncopations and unison lines, driving in 4 but heavily subdivided.

So, really inventive and capable playing all around and some really effective originals and those explorations of Hindemith and Mompou. A fascinating and deeply satisfying concert.
— Eric Pozza, Canberra Jazz Blog, 14 April 2016
...thickening the appeal is the presence of Steve Barry’s rich, supple, snaking organ...
— John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald October 11, 2016

Praise for Puzzles (2014)

4 STARS

Since his arrival in Sydney in 2009, ex-Kiwi pianist/composer Steve Barry has been gathering awards and widespread plaudits, playing with numerous top-flight ensembles. This album follows his self-titled debut CD released in 2012 and features the same trio line-up plus again the guest saxophonist Dave Jackson on three of the ten tracks, all originals by Barry. The established trio includes bassist Alex Boneham and Tim Firth on drums.

It’s a diverse collection ranging from the ballad-style introspection of Kanji to faster post bop themes, such as Flux where Jackson’s alto ducks and dives and the piano builds cascades, flourishes, and runs, while bass and drums expertly maintain the energetic thrust. Another number featuring Jackson’s alto Cosmic Love Child, begins with just piano and saxophone in quick-moving counterpoint, flowing towards the two joining in unison to state the closing theme. There’s an out of tempo opening to Epiphany where piano and bass interact effectively with lingering cymbals in a pastoral theme, which while the bass continues its ostinado, is ornamented and explored as drums pick up the slow rhythm and acoustic bass drifts into an inspirational mode.

Of the two short pieces Harbinger presents solo piano using big chords in a prefacing style and Idyll, more introspective, keeps the piano’s chords progressing as drums embark on a busily building accompaniment. Barry’s new works use improvisation and melodic composition in equal measure, performed by his empathetic partners to produce unpredictable but thoroughly enjoyable results. His keyboard technique allows the seemingly effortless execution of a multitude of original and inexhaustible ideas.
— John McBeath, The Weekend Australian, 18 October 2014

3.5 stars

The more Steve Barry shakes off the crushing weight of the American models of jazz the better his music sounds. After his gorgeous solo piano on Harbinger the ensuing Paradox of Choice and Forge carry too many echoes of a thousand precursors. But then the real interest starts. Unsaid, a ballad, is realised with a supreme sense on the part of Barry, bassist Alex Boneham and drummer Tim Firth for how little is needed to maximise the work’s impact, and Boneham’s solo is masterful. Heraclitus’ Riverbed has such a Spartan theme that when Barry begins improvising it seems that another instrument has joined the discussion, and that plays to all the trio’s strengths: beauty of sound, rhythmic litheness and astute ebbing and flowing of the dramatic stakes. This standard of music and level of interest is flawlessly maintained on the diaphanous Epiphany and the switchback melodies of Flux, one of three tracks to feature alto saxophonist Dave Jackson.
— John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 March 2015

Orbiturtle: Sakura (2015) - 4 Stars

Sakura (Cherry Blossom) recorded in Japan by Studio Songs, a jazz label begun in 2009, initiates a collaborative project between Australia and Japan, and features a quartet with two musicians from each country. Pianist Steve Barry, saxophonist Dave Jackson and drummer Ko Omura studied together at Sydney Conservatorium of Music and have been developing their creative concepts across several years. They’re joined by veteran Japanese bassist Yoshio Suzuki.

Barry’s title track composition is the opener in an energetic 5/4 groove, providing a perfect vehicle for Jackson’s cerebral exploration on alto, supported by big, strong piano chords and Omura’s emphatic drumming. Barry’s solo swirls, weaves and flows spiritedly around the extended harmonies. Omura’s piece Lonely Specs is a waltz with a pretty melody on which Jackson’s alto floats beguilingly, leading into a fugue-like beginning of a piano solo that continues with ceaseless invention. Another of the drummer’s compositions, So Long, opens with a solo piano cadenza before the main theme, with its evocative minor third structure. Jackson has contributed two originals: Pirouette, where the alto spirals and twirls as the title predicts, and Into Stellar, in a slower tempo at first for the abstracted alto’s constructed flight, ahead of the piano’s solo, increasing speed and Suzuki’s inventive bass sequence.

The closer,Codaesque, by Barry, is a slow, 12-bar traditional bluesy number with another articulate bass solo and the ensemble otherwise staying on the expressive melody to conclusion. It’s a fine musical collection and an inspiring example of international jazz co-operation in performance and composition.
— John McBeath, The Australian, 12 September 2015

Live Review - 4 Stars

The New Zealand-born, Sydney-based pianist was named Young Australian Jazz Artist of the Year at last month’s Bell Awards, but at 24 is still relatively unknown on the national scene. That should soon change, if Tuesday’s concert – and Barry’s exceptional debut CD – are any indication.

The trio’s creative empathy was immediately apparent on tunes such as Epiphany, where the musicians eschewed a clear rhythmic focus for a diaphanous, drifting feel, shifting our attention seamlessly from one player to another with each glistening chord, reverberant bass note or softly padding mallet.

While Barry and his colleagues are capable of great sensitivity, they can also lock in tight to navigate the leader’s more elaborate tunes, generating moods of bristling drama and powerful momentum – even when leaping across elusive time signatures and unusual chord progressions, as on Tuesday’s memorable closer, Parks.
— Jessica Nicholas, The Age, June 26 2013 (review of performance at Bennetts Lane, Melbourne)

Praise for Steve Barry (2012)

4 stars

SYDNEY-BASED Kiwi pianist and composer Steve Barry’s debut trio album of 10 originals is steadily gaining plaudits.

Undertaking a PhD in piano performance at the Sydney Conservatorium, Barry is in high demand as a sideman and has chalked up appearances with prominent Australasian and international artists. The trio, with bassist Alex Boneham and Tim Firth on drums, is joined on three tracks by guitarist Carl Morgan.

Barry’s compositions and playing display a rare combination of melodic accessibility with a sophisticated level of musical inventiveness. His solos flow expertly in unexpected, yet logical and highly pleasing directions. The opener, BW, starts with a quick unison passage between bass and the piano’s bass notes before an interlude of tempo-less, appropriately dissonant piano chords; Boneham’s fast and precise solo reintroduces piano excitement as Barry courses and stomps with cymbal-clashing encouragement.

Morgan appears on Changes, a nine-minute piece, featuring an inspired bass solo and stoking exchanges between piano and guitar to a concluding build-up of big, slow-marching piano chords under the guitar theme. Big, slow piano chords are also heard opening Breathe Deep with wandering treble notes gradually supported by brushes and bass as all three intensify and strengthen in a composition that really does portray its title. Clusters is a sensitive theme introduced by bass and piano in unison as Firth’s mallets provide a percussive backdrop. The guitarist rejoins the trio for Sparse, to state a theme over firm piano chords and repetitive bass notes, ahead of swinging solos from piano and guitar.
— John McBeath, The Australian, February 2013
Pianist/composer Steve Barry’s debut CD impresses on all counts. Strong self-assured playing and interesting well-crafted compositions, played by a like-minded band of top young Australian musicians. This music will be a revelation to those unaware of the extraordinary level of contemporary jazz talent currently emerging down under.
— Mike Nock
Here’s another very impressive piano trio, based in Sydney, and led by expat Kiwi Steve Barry. Barry has been winning plaudits since he moved to Sydney in 2009, working with the likes of Andrew Dickeson, Dale Barlow, James Muller and the Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra. His trio features two outstanding young players in Alex Boneham (bass) and Tim Firth (drums); they are joined on three tracks by guitarist Carl Morgan, who adds a positive dimension to proceedings.

All the music was written by Barry. Like his piano playing, his writing is mature, smart, purposeful and intelligently varied and developed. He and his colleagues present a robust, tight ensemble sound, with a combination of energy, swing and assurance that invite repeated listening.
— Adrian Jackson, Rhythms Music Magazine August 2013
Back into the night and the Steve Barry Trio with Alex Boneham and the quicksilver Tim Firth at 505. This is the trio that played on Barry’s recent album, Steve Barry – a startling album made (conjured from the elements, rather) by this startling combination of players. All the telepathic play and spiritual-empathic magic that lights up the album was here on stage tonight. Reminding me of Bill Evans’ trios or Keith Jarrett’s ‘standards’ trios, Barry-Boneham-Firth could spat and spar – as on opener ‘B.W.’ – or dissipate like evening mist across an introspective ballad such as the lovely ‘Epiphany’. Some of the most fluidly intelligent music in jazz has been made within the piano trio format and groups such as Steve Barry’s trio remind me why.
— John Hardaker, australianjazz.net, January 2013

Press - Collaborations/Sideman

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Dave Jackson - Cosmontology Live (2014) - 4 stars

Electronically-treated wind instruments always seem slightly mysterious. Unlike an electric guitar or keyboard you still hear the acoustic sound alongside the processed sound, so the effect is akin to two instruments playing in eerily perfect unison. Sydney’s Dave Jackson feeds his alto saxophone through an octave divider and sometimes adds some delay to create a hybrid sound: part lighter and acoustic, and part harsher and processed. His compositions then engender improvisations in which this hybrid sound spears through time and space with dazzling animation. The treated alto finds its ideal foil in Steve Barry’s Fender Rhodes, the harmonic aura of which adds to the prevailing sense of otherworldliness. By turns fuelling and earthing the explorations are Thomas Botting (bass) and Paul Derricott (drums), who are, themselves, richly idiosyncratic players, ensuring that Jackson’s quartet is one of the most distinctive bands in town at the moment, and this was recorded live, so what you hear is what you get.
— John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald, February 13 2015

Tiny Hearts - Alluvium (2014) - 4 stars

SYDNEY trumpeter Eamon Dilworth is a highly active musician. His quintet the Dilworths released their debut album in 2009, and then his Gypsy ska quartet Caravana Sun album had its debut in 2011, with a second album arriving last year. Between times, Dilworth has toured extensively in Europe and studied and played in the US, Australia and New Zealand, winning numerous awards in the process. Not bad for someone who has just turned 27.

Now Dilworth, together with drummer Paul Derricott, has formed a new quintet, Tiny Hearts, releasing a debut album of compositions by each band member. These pieces are described as “tales of travel, searching, thinking of the cosmos, loss and identity”.

Five of the 11 pieces are by the leader, including the opener, Brief Stint, which begins with a series of solo trumpet downward cadences, taken up by Dave Jackson’s alto as the ensemble arrives to slow things down, flatten out and then erupt into a raucous free-sounding sequence with accentuating drums.

Pianist Steve Barry’s original, Kanji, is a sumptuously pensive number carried by muted trumpet and alto with gracefully flowing piano ornamentation. There’s a vaguely familiar lullaby-style melody to Derricott’s Big Sea Reprise, featuring wordless vocals from a trio of Elana Stone, Brian Campeau and the composer. Bassist Tom Botting wrote Balclutha, with an infectious tock-tock offbeat and stately harmonics.

Cosmontology by Jackson is a post-bop piece — a term that applies to most tracks — with a long-note theme against jabbing rhythms adding the composer’s driving solo and an imaginative, tension-building piano sequence.
— John McBeath, The Australian 3rd May 2014