- NEWS -
JUNO NOMINATION - THE SILENT WISH
2020 JUNO awards.
My thanks to the handful of people involved in this project; namely, Bernie Senensky (piano), Pacy Shulman (engineer), Bill Beard (photography) and Staci Patten (layout/design).
I also want to thank a few of the great Toronto musicians whose tunes were
included on the album; namely, Louis Simao and David French (for "Saber Cair"), Michele Mele (for "Cabana Boy"), and Bruce Jones (for "Away From Home").
Most importantly, I am enormously grateful to my wife and muse, Svetlana, to whom The Silent Wish is dedicated.
Bill MCBIRNIE MADE IT TO BILLBOARD #1
Courtesy of the band Four80East, Bill McBirnie made it to the #1 position on the Billboard charts playing flute on the track, “Cinco Cinco Seis”. Bill is a designated Haynes Artist, and Wm. S. Haynes acknowledged the event as well. You can hear - and see - a Wm. S. Haynes clip from "Cinco Cinco Seis" here!
NEW BOOK ON IMPROVISATION
- Published & Available at Amazon-
SIR JAMES GALWAY was kind enough to write the Foreward, and as something of a teaser, here is an extract:
"When I first heard Bill play some 15 years ago, I was truly impressed with his work, because I recognized I was listening to flute playing on another level altogether. At that time, I thought Bill should write a book. Well, he has finally fulfilled my wish. Not only that, but I think he has written a book up there with the greatest flute players of all time."
As Sir James Galway further points out in the foreword, this is a useful and valuable source of reference for the aspiring student as well as the experienced performer or teacher.
by Bill McBirnie
Responses from the Critics
GARTH THOMAS (The Hollywood Digest): “McBirnie discusses potentially complex musical ideas with a laser focus on disentangling them in a way that is easy for the reader to follow. This is most helpful when McBirnie delves into difficult topics like theory where he also provides musicians and students with a useful philosophical underpinning they may not have had before reading this text. McBirnie deservers much praise for his ability to reduce important [topics] in a manner that never sounds pretentious or high-handed. The effect is ultimately one of sharing private instruction time with him, and this feeling of intimacy makes the book’s content all the more impactful.”
CLAY BURTON (Independent Music and Arts): “The reach of this book goes far beyond McBirnie’s chosen instrument. Every novice musician can read it, and glean important guidance, and share the obvious passion McBirnie has for his art. The text often reads as if it is alight with joy. He cuts intimidating propositions down to a manageable size by including a variety chord charts, lists, and snippets of sheet music throughout the text, including lots of listening suggestions. These never overshadow his writing, and they balance the exposition adding immeasurable value to the book. It is genuinely impressive how much knowledge McBirnie packs into such a limited length. McBirnie has written a brief but enduring work that ranks as one of the best contributions to music literature published in recent memory, and his résumé backs him up every step of the way. This is a book suited to endure indefinitely and gain even more lustre over time.”
JASON HILLENBURG (Good Reads): “McBirnie’s book formulates a musically sound approach to improvisation in clear and concise terms that musicians at any level can use.”
The Technique and Theory of Improvisation is available HERE.
Responses from the Readers
BACKBEAT: I was delighted to read Mr. McBirnie's new reference on the Art and Science of making music by improvisation. While it would be particularly helpful to those who play flute, he manages to make the theory "generic" enough that it applies to all instrumentalists. Of particular value is his unique approach to the subject. Too many references on jazz theory get into extensive, overly detailed analyses of all kinds of scales to play over various chord configurations, and my experience has been that this tends to result in an overly cold, clinical style of playing with very little "heart" or soul in its melodic content. Instead, Mr. McBirnie actually manages to simplify the analysis of chords and scale types so as not to confuse the novice improviser with unnecessary minutiae or detail, choosing instead to emphasize the joy of making melody that talks directly to the listener and makes an emotional connection. This is the stock in trade of the blues musician, or the Latin/Cuban musician, and it works; whereas too many novice jazz musicians get caught up in the cerebral, academic side of their craft and wind up making a musical product that can be emotionally cold. This is a very readable book, full of good suggestions to inspire the improvising musician to explore the art of music rather than the mathematics of it. Thank you, Mr. McBirnie, for sharing your very human approach to music!
STUART: I’ve been looking/hoping for a sort of Grand Unifying Theory, not of the universe or of physics, but as an approach to improvisation. Once obtained, I would apply this theory to the instruments I’m learning (flute and sax) as well as trumpet. In my imagination, it would not matter which instrument I had in my hand. I believe your book will supply that Grand Theory, because you have simplified things in a way I’ve not seen before. So, now the fun begins! A thousand thank you’s.
MIKE: This book is dense with knowledge gleaned from Bill's many years of jazz playing. I've been playing quite a while myself, so I was aware of some of the facts contained, but Bill offered explanations that made many things clearer as well as giving me new concepts to incorporate into my playing. For anyone who cares to, this book will give you many hours of practicing joy. I've already gotten things that I am able to apply right now, and items that will take some time to assimilate. It's the best improv book I have - and I have several.
PATRICK: Any success I have on flute is due to your excellent book. I think your book is just great. The breathing section has really helped me.
Organizationally, you’ve effectively laid out a big part of your life’s work, clearly and cogently. It’s straightforward enough for a jazz newbie and comprehensive enough for medium to advanced players as a expert reference guide. Moreover, I think it has the power to refresh and recharge teachers and players alike.
I am really honoured you shared it with me. My thanks is long overdue.
MARK: Bill has released his new book and I know it’s worth a look for every musician. It’s what I expected. Well written, well thought out, and every page is full of useful and practical information.
JONATHAN: Got your book, a veritable treasure trove of great pointers, reminders, and fresh perspective on the subject. Great job! Also a really refreshing change from the hundreds (thousands?) of books out there filled with pages and pages of modes and scales and licks, etc. Your book distills the infrastructure of jazz improvisation as you see it, suggesting ways to actually *use* the language. Again, great job!
MIKE: Precise, concise, with an underlying spirit of wisdom steeped in the affair we call life. Well done, Bill, and congrats. Thanks again.
ARMEN: Two of the best jazz theory books (in my opinion) are Mark Levine’s The Jazz Theory and Bill McBirnie’s The Technique and Theory of Improvisation. While the first one is encyclopedic for drilling down on details, Bill McBirnie managed to get the same amount of information in just over 150 pages, easy to consume, and right to the point. Practical, with numerous tips and tricks, I consider this book the cream of the crop and table reference book for every jazz improviser.
KEITH: It’s a great introduction to your philosophy of teaching. Great resource. Excited to work out the exercises. Much to learn. Bill, you have a thoughtful method.
ROB: I was working through this exercise book yesterday. It reminded me of our lessons together. You have really distilled the essence of your playing philosophy in this book! It is a useful resource to have, and a helpful reminder of so many of your important teachings.
JOHN: A great new guide by Bill McBirnie. Check it out, flute friends! Thanks for writing this book!
GLEN: Got your book two weeks ago. What a gem, Bill!
ART: I got a copy of your book and found it really interesting. Even the technique sections which are supposedly “flute specific” reveal an underlying musicality that will speak to anyone, not just flutists or wind players. But the main thing for me was the theory section. Even though I don't have a clue about improvisation, I could still readily see the intelligence and insight that went into this.
TOM: This is a clearly written and easy to read—a good typeface—introduction to jazz by one of North America’s premier jazz flautists. It offers both a range of practical suggestions and exercises, in sections that offer even beginners a window on not only playing but understanding jazz. The section on theory is dense sometimes, but then, in understanding the structure of modern jazz, Bill's intuitive approach of the early jazzers has been enfolded into a broad musical understanding. Even for those not attuned to theory, there is much here that helps the nascent jazzer, and those interested in jazz (and especially the flute) to learn. Obviously, I liked it.
MARK ALBAN LOTZ: The Dutch Flute magazine 'FLUIT' asked me to review Bill McBirnie's new book, 'The Technique And Theory Of Improvisation'. I never review the work of my dear colleagues. But in this particular case, I quickly surrendered. The book is a gem! I learned a lot from it, and I totally endorse it. My review is now published, and I hope it will generate the orders the book deserves. 'The Technique And Theory Of Improvisation' is a must have. Bam!
The Technique and Theory of Improvisation is available HERE.
– PRESS EXTRACTS –
The Silent Wish has been enjoying excellent reviews and here are extracts from just some of them:
“Methodically arranged and produced with the upmost care...McBirnie and Senensky have struck sonic gold in this awesome new outing.” GWEN WAGGONER, Skope Magazine
“Bill McBirnie and Bernie Senensky have performed a minor miracle with their new album, The Silent Wish.” MARK DREURY, Indie Shark (Nominated for “Album of the Year”)
“...Poignant and the easy to listen to, The Silent Wish transcends trends and personal tastes, a rare combination...” ANNE HOLLISTER, The Indie Source
“There is no percussive grind here, so the melodies stay firmly where McBirnie’s flute places them...McBirnie and Senensky were very particular about the album, from top to bottom, and this can be fully appreciated when you listen to it, from beginning to end, without interruption.” LORI REYNOLDS, Vents Magazine
“McBirnie commands our attention, start to finish, with his dexterous flute work. The Silent Wish proves that creativity and commercialism are not mutually exclusive...Nothing short of brilliant...” MINDY MCCALL, No Depression
“Bill McBirnie is unquestionably the most gifted flutist of his generation. He and Bernie Senensky have no difficulty exploring the open design of all the songs...Young jazz musicians could stand to learn from The Silent Wish and the two masterminds behind its conception...” MICHAEL RAND, The Mob's Press
“...Their interplay meshes so flawlessly that they become a singular force....” KIM MUNCIE, Neu Futur
“I would challenge the most anti-jazz listener to give these songs a focused listen and not come away with a completely new perspective on the idiom.” SEBASTIAN COLE, Gas House Radio
- Bill McBirnie with Bernie Senensky -
This album was inspired by—and is dedicated to—my wife, Svetlana, and is a unique project in that it consists entirely of tunes that she picked herself. What is uniquely charming about the album is that every tune she selected is in a minor key (something I did not anticipate, but which is entirely in keeping with her Russian soul!)
Now the crowdfunding for The Silent Wish begins! And the crowdfunding “formula” is very easy to understand, and very easy to follow!...Simply purchase a copy of the CD and/or download the album!... :-)
CD/DOWNLOAD AVAILABLE HERE:
SIR JAMES GALWAY—"…I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your latest, and greatest, CD. I’ve listened to it several times and it’s a really terrific record. You are my favourite jazz flutist…This album is a real knock-out!…"
DOWNBEAT—"…Toronto’s deep pool of local talent was on display at dozens of events…Opening for Eliane Elias, flutist Bill McBirnie proved a passionate and eloquent improviser with sure-footed support from pianist Bernie Senensky. Their set included...a show-stopping finale penned by Senensky...inspired by Hermeto Pascoal and Charlie Parker.” (Allen Morrison)
JAZZTIMES—"Best Opening Act [at the TD Jazz Festival] – Eliane Elias delivered a solid, opening-weekend show at the Old Mill Inn, focusing squarely on selections from her recent Chet Baker tribute, I Thought About You. But it was the dynamic opening duo of pianist and composer, Bernie Senensky, and flutist, Bill McBirnie, that...truly set the expansive dining room aflame and, ironically, provided far more satisfying dips into the Brazilian songbook...” (Christopher Loudon)
JAZZIZ—"...An effervescent, joyous quality pervades The Bill McBirnie Trio's Find Your Place [which] showcases a wide range of grooves, from bop and bossa to gospel and swing…Those new to McBirnie will be amazed at his imagination and originality on this engaging album." (Mark Holston)
Finally, here is a full track listing to The Silent Wish:
1 Reflection (Ray Bryant) – Latin/swing 3:43
2 Black Orpheus/Morning Of The Carnival (Luis Bonfa) – slow bossa nova 5:37
3 Saber Cair/Knowing How To Fall (Louis Simão & David French) – Maculelê 3:31
4 Cabana Boy (Michele Mele) – relaxed bossa nova 6:44
5 My Heart Belongs To Daddy (Cole Porter) – up swing 4:08
6 First Song (for Ruth) (Charlie Haden) – ballad 4:30
7 Recado Bossa Nova (Djalma Ferreira) – up bossa nova 5:28
8 Dança da Solidão (Paulinho da Viola) – relaxed samba 3:49
9 No Moon At All (David Mann) – medium swing 4:20
10 Away From Home (Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones) – rhapsody 5:07
11 Blue Bossa (Kenny Dorham) – medium bossa nova 4:49
12 What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?
(Michel Legrand, Alan & Marilyn Bergman) – ballad 5:49
JIM SCHMIDT'S GOLD FLUTE PADS
I recently had one of my vintage Wm. S. Haynes flutes re-padded with Jim Schmidt's gold flute pads and I have to say that this has been a major event in my musical life. These gold pads have completely transformed and "turbocharged" my vintage Haynes instrument, in the most astonishing and amazing way imaginable.
People often ask me how these gold flute pads have affected the performance of my Haynes. Broadly speaking, Jim Schmidt's gold pads have given the instrument more resonance and more life. The flute also responds, lightening fast, especially over large intervals which now have very clean 'edges'. And all of the right-hand notes at the bottom end of the instrument really pop out. I also really like the way the instrument responds to any and all articulations.
In short, everything is so much easier...and so much better!...
Furthermore, if the installation is done properly, then the instrument will remain very stable and reliable...and for years!...
Needless to say, I am enormously happy with what is, in effect, a fantastic "new" Haynes flute!
[NOTE: You can find out more about Jim Schmidt's gold pads here.]
BILL PERFORMS WITH SIR JAMES GALWAY
Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway (Oct. 25, Koerner Hall). Gala night of the new Royal Conservatory season has the Irishman and his partner showing off their charm and expert command of the flute, managing the neat trick of pleasing the purists while being pop-friendly. The program runs from Debussy to Henry Mancini to Irish folk. Top Canadian flautist, Bill McBirnie, guests to throw a jazz set into the night, stretching the Galways’ wide-open repertoire even further."
GRAIN OF SAND - 2016 TIMAs - NOMINATIONS & WIN
Grain of Sand (Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones - Extreme Flute) was nominated in two categories at the 2016 TIMAs (Toronto Independent Music Awards), topping the list in both the (1) Best World and (2) Best Instrumental classes. Ultimately, Grain of Sand came first in the Best Instrumental category.
Here are just a few press extracts to date regarding this latest Extreme Flute project:
"...McBirnie’s brilliant flute technique and sensitive improvisatory style happily unite with Jones’ diverse skills and genuine gift for songwriting as they demonstrate their shared love for Brazilian music. You will sense the empathy between them immediately, from the opening track of the album, “Grain of Sand”, where bossa nova is fused with the plaintive melody of traditional Portuguese fado. Flickering like a candle caressed by the wind, the sound of Bill’s flute enchants the listener, right from the opening few bars. And following this tender opening comes a whirlwind of samba rhythms combined with hip-hop vocals and yet more flawless flute improvisation on “If I Stay With You”. Just these two opening tracks portray the scope of moods in the music awaiting you on the rest of this album!…” LEONID AUSKERN, JazzQuad.ru
"…A fine album! I look forward to playing the tracks on Stolen Moments!...” DAVID BASSKIN, Jazz.FM91
"…Drawing inspiration from Brazilian samba, maracatú, forró and choro, Bill McBirnie and Bruce Jones create a fresh, unique, seductive and focused sound…Although each of the fourteen pieces has its own identity, they share a consistency that could easily be perceived as a discourse on one continuous thought…” RAUL DA GAMA, Latin Jazz Network
THE 14th ANNUAL INDEPENDENT MUSIC AWARDS
- VOX POP WINNERS ANNOUNCED -
The Bill McBirnie Trio Joins A Host of Great Indie Artists
As A Fan Favorite In The 14th Annual IMAs
The Independent Music Awards recently announced the results of the IMA Vox Pop 14th annual poll which is the fan-determined portion of the prestigious international program for independent artists and releases. “FIND YOUR PLACE” (featuring Bernie Senensky on Hammond B3 organ and Anthony Michelli on drums) won in the Jazz Instrumental category. (FIND YOUR PLACE is available here.)
NOTE: The Independent Music Awards connects top-ranked self-released and indie label artists and releases to new performance, promotion and distribution opportunities. The IMAs (produced by Music Resource Group LLC) receives entries from nearly 100 countries on six continents, and its active support places winners and nominees in front of millions of industry decision makers and music consumers, around the world.
FIVE QUESTIONS FOR TORONTO FLUTIST, BILL MCBIRNIE
Peter Hum, The Ottawa Citizen
This article was published in the Ottawa Citizen January 5, 2016 with an introduction by Peter Hum. As Peter indicated, no less an authority than James Galway has said of fellow flutist, Bill McBirnie: “This just blew me away. Great, great playing.”
Peter goes on to say that McBirnie now makes his debut as a leader in Ottawa at GigSpace on January 9th, and his show has already sold out! Here is a good-sized introduction to McBirnie that consists of the following five questions:
- (1) Tell me about your development as a flutist — your initial interest in the instrument, your studies, and some of your professional milestones.
- (2) When and how did you develop your interest in jazz?
- (3) Who are your musical heroes, on your instrument and/or in jazz, and why?
- (4) You are also giving a clinic at Long & McQuade on Saturday afternoon about flute and improvisation. What are some of the ideas that you will share with beginning improvisers and what, if any, information would you pass on that is specific to your instrument in jazz as opposed to brass or woodwind instruments?
- (5) What should listeners expect to hear from you with pianist Mark Ferguson and bassist John Geggie on Saturday night?
The answers to the five questions appear here!
GRAIN OF SAND WINS A GLOBAL MUSIC AWARD
Grain of Sand (Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones - Extreme Flute) was awarded a Silver Medal in the Instrumentalist category at the 2015 Global Music Awards.
[Note: The Global Music Awards (GMA) is a top-tier music competition that honors great musicians and serves as a showcase for musical gems and unique voices the world over.]
A SPECIAL JAZZ.FM91 PODCAST - "SPEAKING LIKE A CHILD"
This Jazz.FM.91 podcast outlines some of the music that influenced Bill as a child. It is about an hour long and, in the course of a genuinely engaging playlist, you will learn a good deal about what Bill first heard as a child and what he then began to listen to as he was growing up in the small town of Port Colborne, Ontario. Simply click here to listen.
DESVIO - NOW UP FOR A TIMA!
Desvio, Extreme Flute (A Bill McBirnie/Bruce Jones Collaboration) has been nominated for a 2015 Toronto Independent Music Award in the "Best Jazz Instrumental" category. You can obtain a copy of Desvio here.
NEW RELEASE - BILL MCBIRNIE & BRUCE JONES
- GRAIN OF SAND -
The latest Extreme Flute release, Grain of Sand, features Bill McBirnie on flute, alto flute and piccolo along with the multi-talented singer-songwriter, Bruce Jones. Grain of Sand consists of original material in a variety of Brazilian formats—but with lots of improvised flute work! As a a teaser, you can listen to (…and download!…) the opening track here.
Here are a couple of early responses to Grain of Sand:
- “…McBirnie’s brilliant flute technique and sensitive improvisatory style happily unite with Jones’ diverse skills and genuine gift for songwriting as they demonstrate their shared love for Brazilian music. You will sense the empathy between them immediately, from the opening track of the album, “Grain of Sand”, where bossa nova is fused with the plaintive melody of traditional Portuguese fado. Flickering like a candle caressed by the wind, the sound of Bill’s flute enchants the listener, right from the opening few bars. And following this tender opening comes a whirlwind of samba rhythms combined with hip-hop vocals and yet more flawless flute improvisation on “If I Stay With You”. Just these two opening tracks portray the scope of moods in the music awaiting you on the rest of this album!…” LEONID AUSKERN (JazzQuad.ru)
- “…A fine album! I look forward to playing the tracks on Stolen Moments!...” DAVID BASSKIN (Jazz.FM91, Canada's premier jazz station)
Finally, a complete track listing is appended below in order to give you some idea of the content of the album.
(1) Grain of Sand (Grão de Areia) 4:50 - fado, bossa nova (instrumental) (2) Se Eu Fico Com Você (If I Stay With You) 5:03 - hip-hop, samba, rock (with voice) (3) Quando A Chuva Cai (As The Rain Falls) 4:43 - ambient (instrumental) (4) Izabel (Isabel) 4:06 - bossa nova (with voice) (5) Lembrando Paul Horn (Remembering Paul Horn) 2:08 - ambient (instrumental) (6) Breque Trio a Trêz (Break Samba Trio for Three) 4:42 - samba de breque (instrumental) (7) Carnaval Blue (Blue Carnival) 3:27 - funk, samba (with voice) (8) Vai Bem Devagar (Proceed With Caution) 5:26 - 6/8 bossa (instrumental) (9) Cê Tá Com Tudo (You Are Everything) 4:45 - samba, rock (with voice) (10) A Ponte Para Carlton (The Carlton Bridge) 4:35 - 6/8 afro brasil (instrumental) (11) Na Quinta Esquina (On The Fifth Corner) 4:07 - ambient (instrumental) (12) Motel Cê Que Sabe (...Who Knows Motel...) 5:08 - flowing samba (instrumental) (13) Com ou Sem Você, Meu Amor (With or Without You, My Love) 5:16 - hip-hop samba (with voice) (14) Grão de Areia (Grain of Sand) 3:37 - folkloric (with voice)
THE NOMINEES FOR THE 14TH INDEPENDENT MUSIC AWARDS
IN THE USA HAVE BEEN ANNOUNCED
- FIND YOUR PLACE - THE BILL MCBIRNIE TRIO -
Nominated in the Jazz Instrumental Category
The Bill McBirnie Trio (featuring Bernie Senensky on Hammond B3 organ and Anthony Michelli on drums) has been named by the Music Resource Group (MRG) as a nominee in the Jazz Instrumental Category of the 14th Independent Music Awards (IMAs), an influential awards program based in the USA for independent artists and releases the world over. Winners will be determined by a panel of prominent artist and industry judges (who will include this year, amongst others, Jane Monheit, Arturo Sandoval and Terry McBride).
In addition to winners selected by the judges, fans from around the world can vote at the Vox Pop Jukebox (up until Friday, July 31, 2015) and thereby participate in the fan-based part of the IMAs. To do so, just click here.
Following is some critical reaction to date to FIND YOUR PLACE:
- “There’s an effervescent, joyous quality to the dozen takes on Bill McBirnie’s Find Your Place (Extreme Flute)...Those new to McBirnie will be amazed at his inventiveness and the winning charm of this exceptional date.” MARK HOLSTON ( JAZZIZ, Spring 2014)
- “...McBirnie approaches this album as if he were a tenor player. The material is soulful and extroverted, the grooves are catchy and accessible...So put away any preconceptions about jazz flute and enjoy this exciting set. Everything works on this enjoyable outing...” SCOTT YANOW (Los Angeles Jazz Scene, Feb. 2015)
- “...McBirnie is at the top of his game, never faltering, not even for a nano-second. His playing recalls all that is most attractive and memorable in a great flute performance. So it is little wonder that he has been so highly praised by the great Sir James Galway...This may be one of the finest recordings of this year…” RAUL DA GAMA (Latin Jazz Network, Feb. 13, 2014)
GRAIN OF SAND
Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones
Release Date: MARCH 2, 2015
Grain of Sand features Canadian flutist, Bill McBirnie, and Brazilian singer/songwriter, Bruce Jones. This new Extreme Flute project is decidedly different from Bill's more recent acoustic jazz recordings because, in addition to Bill's exceptional flute, alto flute and piccolo work, this recording project showcases the varied and remarkable talents of Bruce Jones in a wide range of essentially Brazilian formats (ranging from samba to ambient, from urban to jazz) including, of course, lots of Bill's extraordinary improvised flute work. All is imbued with an incantatory vibe and a genuine sense of continuity and flow.
Grain of Sand is scheduled for release at CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon.com (etc.) on MARCH 2, 2015.
EXTREME FLUTE - DESVIO
(A Bill McBirnie - Bruce Jones Collaboration)
NOMINATED FOR A TORONTO INDEPENDENT MUSIC AWARD
Bruce Jones and Bill McBirnie had the good fortune to be nominated (albeit belatedly) for a Toronto Independed Music Award (TIMA) in the Best Jazz or Instrumental category at the 2014 TIMAs. (The full roster of nominees is set out here.)
JAZZ VIEWS - CD Reviews - July 2014
The tenor sax, in consort with the Hammond organ, is one of the sexiest sounds in jazz; the lusty sax overlaying the silky, sensual harmonies of the organ and the voluptuous swell of its rich orchestral climaxes. It is a combination that has the potential to raise the hairs on the back of your head. Does it work as well if you exchange the sax for a flute? In this case, the answer is an affirmative "Yes!" because Toronto-based Bill McBirnie plays with an earthy potency and attack that is every bit as virile as the sound of the larger instrument, albeit with added silvery sophistication and breathtaking velocity.
With his fellow Canadians, he has put together an engaging program of pieces representing the entire jazz spectrum from songbook standards and swing thru to gospel, bop and Latin whilst also taking in the pop scene with a Beatles tune, “Oh! Darling”. As popular as the program might appear with familiar tunes like “So In Love” and “Estate” nestled amongst jazz standards such as “Sister Sadie” and Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning”, this is no anodyne, easy listening exercise because there is passion and invention in the playing that will whet the most fatigued jazz appetite. Indeed, McBirnie’s solos are melodic constructions of real musical substance with nary a wasted note and free of the arpeggiated padding which can become so wearisome.
McBirnie may be a name that is new to us, but he is (and hardly surprisingly) highly regarded within the flute fraternity, being a specialist advisor to Sir James Galway, the famed classical flautist. With recordings like this to testify to his talent, it can’t be long before his name becomes more widely known outside the specialist circles and the confines of his native city, taking up a place amongst the international elite of world-class players.
His trio companions also deserve mention. Bernie Senensky plays Hammond B3 in the best Blue Note tradition, divested of extreme vibrato and over repetitive riffing, whilst Anthony Michelli provides sure-footed support in the execution of the various rhythmic solutions applied to these excitingly fresh interpretations.
Definitely a fine recording that deserves to find a place in your collection.
Reviewed by EUAN DIXON
JAZZMONTHLY.COM - ARTIST SPOT LIGHT
Bill is the July 2014 subject of a JazzMonthly.com "Artist Spotlight" which includes an excellent review of FIND YOUR PLACE by JOE CAROSELLI ("...He and his trio explode...") You can read the review in full here!
NEW MusicSUBMIT INTERVIEW
Bill was recently the subject of a far-ranging, online interview (including questions about his background, his thoughts on music, jazz, teaching, etc.) You can have a look at the interview here! [NOTE: SIR JAMES GALWAY commented personally at the bottom, "Loved every word or it"!]
NEW RELEASE - THE BILL MCBIRNIE TRIO
(featuring Bernie Senensky & Anthony Michelli)
Bill McBirnie has just released a new album which departs, in a significant way, from his previously acclaimed acoustic jazz projects (Mercy with Robi Botos; Paco Paco with Bernie Senensky; and Nature Boy with Mark Eisenman).
In Find Your Place, Bill has placed the flute in an unlikely role…as part of an organ trio!…
For this singular format, Bill has recruited two outstanding fellow Canadian musicians—Bernie Senensky on Hammond B3 organ and Anthony Michelli on drums. In keeping with Bill's previous acoustic projects, Find Your Place combines a clear acoustic sonority with the natural ambiance of a blowing session.
On Find Your Place, the trio performs the following tunes:
(1) So In Love (Cole Porter) – Latin (2) Yes Indeed! (Sy Oliver) – for Sir James Galway – gospel (3) Sister Sadie (Horace Silver) – swing (4) Oh! Darling (Lennon/McCartney) – shuffle (5) Minority (Gigi Gryce) – bebop (6) Estate (Martino/Brighetti) – bossa nova (7) Jeannine (Duke Pearson) – swing (8) Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You (Redman/Razaf) – ballad (9) Yes Or No (Wayne Shorter) – modal (10) Soy Califa (Dexter Gordon) – Latin/swing (11) Rhythm-A-Ning (Thelonious Monk) – swing (12) Find Your Place (Bill McBirnie) – for Svetlana - bossa nova [Do not hesitate to contact Bill directly regarding reviews or interviews about this new release.]
BILL DESIGNATED A NEW "HAYNES ARTIST"
Bill has never made a secret of the fact that he has played Haynes flutes for may years and now, after 125 years of superior flute making, the Wm. S. Haynes Co. designated Bill as a "Haynes Artist" along with one of his longstanding inspirations, Hubert Laws. It is also worth noting Bill's choice of Haynes flutes is the same as that of some of his earliest and most significant influences on the instrument including classical flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, jazz flutist Herbie Mann, and fellow Canadian flutist Moe Koffman.
WINNER IN THE JAZZ FLUTE SOLOIST COMPETITION
(FROM THE 2012 NFA CONVENTION IN LAS VEGAS)
Bill has been selected as a winner in the inaugural Jazz Flute Soloist Competition at the 40th annual National Flute Association (NFA) convention, held August 9-12 in Las Vegas, Nevada (…thereby ensuring some "Canadian content" in the course of the proceedings…)
Bill has also been a past winner in the NFA Jazz Flute Masterclass Competition (2003) and the NFA Jazz Flute Big Band Competition (2009).
[NOTE: The NFA was founded in 1972 in the USA and is international in scope. It has grown to become one of the largest instrumental organizations in the world (and certainly the largest with respect to the flute) with more than 6,000 members from more than 50 countries. The NFA Jazz Flute Soloist Competition, held for the first time this year, is to be conducted on a biennial basis hereafter.]
NEW RELEASE FROM FOUR 80 EAST - OFF DUTY
I just got a chance to play on Four80East's new release, Off Duty. This is the sixth album for a band has been together 15 years, during which time it has been at the forefront of the so-called 'nu jazz movement'. So, of course, it was a real honour to get this call! You can purchase Off Duty as well as listen to FULL streams of ALL of the tracks on this really cool release if you just click here.
…And, while your listening, here are a couple of initial responses from the critics regarding two of the tracks…
- "…Some of the unique sounds on this new release come from the duo’s spirited interactions with flutist, Bill McBirnie, and longtime Four80East contributors Jon Stewart (saxophones) and Bryden Baird (trumpet)…The crisp and funky opening electro-jazz track,'THE WALKER',…features a standout flute element…'IN THE HIDDEN GARDEN' uncovers a host of chilled-out delights from a colorful Rhodes melody over a hypnotic groove to Baird’s muted trumpet melody and McBirnie’s whimsical flute solo…" JONATHAN WIDRAN, JazzMonthly.com
- "…Kicking the party off is THE WALKER with a flash-fried, funkalicious groove incorporating a hip-hop beat with programming that is used to incredible effect. As one that has a tendency to keep most things 'contemporary' at arms length, I love this! Bill McBirnie delivers the goods on flute with infectious solos and a deceptively subtle techno/house vibe that is guaranteed to make your musical back leg shake. The most creative work to come out of the contemporary side of jazz in years…" BRENT BLACK, @criticaljazz
BILL MCBIRNIE NOMINATED FOR AN IMA IN THE USA
Bill's recent release, Mercy, has been nominated in the USA for the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards (IMAs) in the best Jazz Album category.
Based in the USA, the IMAs are international in scope with submissions from 70 countries across six continents. Bill is the sole Canadian amongst the remaining American nominees in the Jazz Album category. Both the IMA nominees and winners are determined on the basis of artistic merit and this year's judges in the Jazz category include McCoy Tyner, Arturo Sandoval and Lee Ritenour.
The IMA also provides a Vox Populi jukebox where you can listen to all of the nominees and vote for your favourite. You can read an interview with Bill and listen to a complete sample track from Mercy here. With respect to Mercy, the IMAs selected the track, "I'm Walkin'" (the old Fats Domino hit), which features Bill on flute, Robi Botos on piano, Pat Collins on bass and John Sumner on drums.
You can now get a free download of the track, "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You", from Bill's most recent album entitled, Find Your Place. All you have to do to access this free download at ReverbNation is to click here.
THE BILL MCBIRNIE DUO/QUARTET
(featuring Robi Botos) - MERCY
Following up on his two previously acclaimed acoustic projects (Nature Boy with Mark Eisenman and Paco Paco with Bernie Senensky), “extreme flutist”, Bill McBirnie, has come out swinging and scintillating once again with yet another exceptional acoustic flute release, Mercy.
On Mercy, Bill joins forces with Romani piano sensation, Robi Botos, for a series of duos and, for the remaining quartet pieces, Bill couples Robi with a steadfast rhythm section consisting of the sure-footed Pat Collins on bass and the rock-solid John Sumner on drums.
Mercy presents a diverse—as well as gratifying—mix of both duo and quartet tracks that run the gamut from bebop (“Yardbird Suite”) to bossa nova (“Gentle Rain”) right through to Dixieland (“Way Down Yonder in New Orleans”). Included with the more standard fare is the title track, “Mercy”, a poignant rhapsody written by pianist, Robi Botos.
In keeping with Bill’s previous two Extreme Flute releases, Mercy remains faithful to the spontaneous and down-to-earth qualities of a blowing session resulting in another album with inevitable “drop-the-needle-anywhere” charm and allure.
Mercy clocks in at 60:00 minutes and, in so doing, provides precisely one hour of great listening with repertoire that consists of the following (including the opening two tracks which pay tribute to Bill's longstanding influences, Hubert Laws and Jeremy Steig respectively):
(1) Baila Cinderella (Hubert Laws) – for Hubert Laws - cha cha cha
(2) Willow Weep For Me (Ann Ronell) – for Jeremy Steig - ballad
(3) Airegin (Sonny Rollins) – bebop
(4) Stuffy Turkey (Thelonious Monk) – medium swing
(5) Gentle Rain (Louis Bonfa) – slow bossa nova
(6) I’m Walkin’ (Bartholomew/Domino) – medium swing
(7) Yardbird Suite (Charlie Parker) – bebop
(8) Way Down Yonder In New Orleans (Creamer/Layton) – Dixieland
(9) Moment’s Notice (John Coltrane) – up swing
(10) Minha Saudade (Joao Donato) – medium bossa nova
(11) Groovin’ High (Dizzy Gillespie) – bebop
(12) Mercy (Robi Botos) – slow rhapsody