Jazz Views - CD Reviews - July 2014
BILL McBIRNIE TRIO - Find Your Place
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 RELEASES 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)
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
Mercy is now available at at CDBaby and iTunes.