After contributing as a sideman to a wide range of recordings (including works by Junior Mance, Memo Acevedo, Irakere, Cache as well as his own earlier Extreme Flute projects), flutist Bill McBirnie swings and sparkles once again in a straight-ahead acoustic jazz setting.
This recording sets Bill alongside one of Canada's foremost jazz pianists, Bernie Senensky, as well as a consummate rhythm section which is rounded out by the impeccable Neil Swainson on bass and a steadfast John Sumner on drums.
The album consists of a solid combination of standard jazz repertoire (including the cunning and crafty title track which was written by Bernie Senensky) yielding a balanced mix of duo and quartet outings, all of which are executed with a relaxed and "blowing session" like ease. The result is a CD with genuine "drop-the-needle-anywhere" charm.
Bill McBirnie - EXTREME FLUTE
Bill McBirnie is a jazz and Latin flute specialist based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has studied with distinguished Canadian flutist and composer, Robert Aitken, and Cuban Charanga legend, Richard Egues. Bill is known for his superior technique on the entire family of flutes (from bass flute to piccolo). He is also recognized as an accomplished improviser, notably in the bebop, swing and Latin idioms as illustrated by his recordings as a sideman with Junior Mance, Irakere, Memo Acevedo and Cache.
Bill has produced two of his own EXTREME FLUTE projects and, more recently, a straight-ahead acoustic jazz recording under his own name featuring The Mark Eisenman Trio entitled, "Nature Boy" (which attained the No. 4 spot in Jazz.FM91's Top 40 international line-up for 2003 in Canada as well as being in the spin-cycle of Bob Parlocha's syndicated jazz program in the US). Needless to say, "Nature Boy" has garnered consistently excellent reviews internationally-in Canada, the US, Britain, Holland and France. Some sample comments on Bill's flute work follow:
"A distinguished flutist with a devotion that shows up in the airy sweetness of his sound at ballad tempos and in the remarkable control he can bring to rapid-fire, skittering runs on up tempo, Coltrane-inspired material." (Stuart Broomer, Editor, Coda magazine)
"McBirnie has always handled bop exceptionally well. You can hear his years at the conservatory in his sound-a pure, transparent tone at rest, brightening with exertion-yet he swings like someone who grew up with a large collection of Blue Note and Prestige LPs down in the basement. He's entirely idiomatic, but also effortlessly inventive." (Mark Miller, The Globe and Mail)
"...All beautifully recorded, unclassifiable, and virtually timeless..." (Michael Steinman, Cadence Magazine)
Bill has also been chosen Flutist of the Year by the Jazz Report Awards, nominated as Miscellaneous Instrumentalist of the Year at the National Jazz Awards as well as being declared a winner of the U.S.A. National Flute Association's triennial Jazz Flute Masterclass Competition.
After my most recent and well-received CD, Nature Boy (featuring the Mark Eisenman Trio), I considered doing a Latin-oriented project because, after a long though not necessarily sought after hiatus of several years, I have enjoyed the opportunity of working in several excellent Cuban formats over the recent past; notably, with percussionists Wilson Acevedo (of Cache), Alex Godinez (of Proyecto Charanguero) and Daniel Stone (of Mamboso).
However, in what turned out to be a natural progression, I ended up approaching pianist, Bernie Senensky, because I have also had the good fortune to work with Bernie a good deal over the past couple of years—in his Moe Koffman Tribute Band, as part of the back-up team to vocalist/songwriter, Michele Mele, and simply as a duo.
Bernie has extensive and impeccable credentials and is indisputably a world-class performer. Stylistically, he is something of a “musical chameleon”—though always with his own striking iridescence. I have matched him here with Neil Swainson on bass (who is a stalwart and unflappable performer of truly remarkable skill) as well as John Sumner on drums (whom I see as a terribly overlooked resource in this country and whom I am, therefore, very pleased to have on this session). Combined, Neil and John provide what is a sure-footed foundation for the quartet tracks while, with respect to the duo tracks,...well,...Bernie and I are on our own...
I am also very pleased to have Inaam Haq of Cherry Beach Sound serving as engineer. He ensures a transparency and immediacy in the sound that is consistent with the spontaneous nature of this undertaking.
In terms of repertoire, I admit that I tend to shun original material, preferring instead to pick tunes I think the listener—as well as the musicians—will either know or be able to relate to quickly and easily. However, on this album, I made an exception of the title track, “Paco Paco”, which is an original by Bernie. Stylistically, this tune opens with a Cuban tumbao and then proceeds directly into a Brazilian groove. (Think Hermeto Pascoal...with a dash of bebop...which is also why Bernie routinely incorporates some swing into the delivery.)
Historically, “Paco Paco” formed part of the repertoire of the Moe Koffman Quintet. Moe performed this piece quite often and usually with a comic remark to the effect that Bernie had deliberately written the tune so that he might find himself in a good position to profit from “the day when musicians get paid by the note!” Bernie conceived the melody line for two flutes but, because there was only one flute player in the band (...namely Moe...), Bernie would always double the melody line...which is one of the reasons that the tune came to be called “Paco Paco”...instead of just...“Paco”...
Before the session, I indicated to Bernie that I was quite prepared to deviate from my “no originals” policy with respect to this particular piece because,...well,...if we didn’t record it, then it was not likely anyone else would do so anytime soon...and precisely because—as you will hear—it is a rather tricky piece of work...and one which I hope you will enjoy, nestled as it is amongst the more standard fare of Coltrane, Monk, Rollins...and the rest!
My heartfelt thanks to Svetlana, Anastasia and Alissa for their love as well their patience but, most of all,...for just being who they are...My thanks also to Bernie, Neil and John for their superior craft and workmanship; to Memo Acevedo for initiating me into the Latin realm well over ten years ago (and ever so graciously bearing with my inexperience at the time); and, finally, to Jazz.FM91 for making a round-the-clock commitment to jazz—as well as Latin jazz—here in Canada.
Neil Swainson --Bass
The quartet tracks (1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11) were recorded on Saturday, August 20, 2005. The duo tracks (2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12) were recorded on Sunday, August 21, 2005.
Produced by Bill McBirnie
Engineered & Mixed by Inaam Haq at Cherry Beach Sound, Toronto, Canada
Mastered by Andy Khrem at Silverbirch Productions, Toronto, Canada
Photography by Jim Allen
Graphic Design by Bruce Longman
(Bill plays a Wm. S. Haynes flute with a David Welans headjoint.)