Following up on his two previously acclaimed acoustic projects—Nature Boy with Mark Eisenman and Paco Paco with Bernie Senensky—“extreme flutist”, Bill McBirnie, comes out swinging and scintillating once again with yet another exceptional acoustic release, Mercy.
On Mercy, Bill joins forces with Romani piano sensation, Robi Botos, for a series of duos. For the remaining quartet tracks, Bill combines 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”). In addition to 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 real “drop-the-needle-anywhere” charm and allure.
The album clocks in at precisely 60:00 minutes and, in so doing, provides one hour of absolutely great listening!
Bill McBirnie – Flute
Robi Botos – Piano
Pat Collins – Bass
John Sumner – Drums
Produced by Bill McBirnie
Co-Produced by Pacy Shulman
Engineered, Mixed & Mastered by Pacy Shulman at Hilo Studio
Graphic Design by Staci Patten of Accurate Audio
Photography by Greg King
[ Note: Bill plays a vintage Wm. S. Haynes flute with a Robert Bigio crown and stopper. ]
On my previous two acoustic projects, I have had the good fortune to work with two of the finest jazz pianists in this country—indeed, anywhere—namely, Mark Eisenman on Nature Boy and Bernie Senensky on Paco Paco. Evidently, my good fortune with world-class pianists has yet to come to an end because, for this acoustic project, I teamed up with a relatively new but undeniably formidable talent—the remarkable Romani pianist, Robi Botos.
Not everyone knows about Robi—but certainly more and more are finding out about him. I have known Robi since 1998 when he first immigrated to Canada from Hungary. On the rare occasions we have played together—most were long ago as a duo at the former Rhodes Restaurant shortly after Robi’s arrival in Canada—both of us inevitably agreed that, at some point, we simply had to record together. However, I can safely say that neither of us ever thought it would take us ten years to get around to doing so.
For those of you who are not familiar with Robi, you will soon learn that he is something of a prodigy. For those of you who are already familiar with his work, you will be entirely aware of Robi’s full-blown mastery—both in terms of the instrument and the idiom—a mastery which he seems to have realized as the result of a rare gift as well as a deep dedication to his craft.
As I indicated earlier, this recording forms part of what is an ongoing personal “acoustic jazz series”. Like its two predecessors (i.e., Nature Boy and Paco Paco), the Mercy sessions were recorded over a two-day interval utilizing a quartet format one day and a duo format the next. For the initial quartet session, I combined Robi with two of my favourite rhythm section players here in Toronto; namely, Pat Collins on bass (who, in my view, has never been exploited sufficiently—either live or on record) and John Sumner on drums (who is yet another woefully underutilized resource with an equally strong and infallible sense of time). To Robi, Pat and John, I offer my sincere gratitude for delivering such coherent performances in just two short recording sessions—and despite having never played (much less rehearsed) together before.
I am also pleased to introduce Pacy Shulman of Hilo Studio on this project who engineered, mixed and mastered the album. Pacy maintained a steady hand at the board as well as a cool and attentive head during the mildly chaotic nature of these blowing sessions. Furthermore, his technical sixth sense was as often mystifying as it was an enormous aid to me throughout the entire process.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to dedicate the opening two tracks on this recording to the two jazz flutists who have undoubtedly exerted the greatest influence on me over the years. The first, "Baila Cinderella", is dedicated to Hubert Laws who has always struck me with his impeccable technique and musical taste. The second, "Willow Weep for Me", is dedicated to Jeremy Steig whose hard-hitting debut recording, Flute Fever, continues to spin on my platter after more than 45 years from the date of its original release.
In conclusion, I would like to dedicate what is the closing and title track, "Mercy" (a beautiful rhapsody composed by Robi Botos), to my wife, Svetlana, who is—and will remain—my soul to love—and who said to me, in utter astonishment, after the very first set of my first duo gig with Robi Botos at Rhodes Restaurant ten years ago, “Billy, you really must do a recording with this boy, Robi!”...So here it is, Honey Pie!...
Acknowlegments: I would like to thank Canada’s premier jazz station, Jazz.FM91, for their continuing and ongoing support of this music (...not to mention mine along the way... :-) and, in addition, Bob Parlocha, Sir James Galway, Robert Aitken, William Hoare, Frank Falco, Memo Acevedo, Louis Simao and, more recently, Ruben Diaz.