Friday, October 12, 2012

The Bill McBirnie Duo/Quartet featuring Robi Botos Mercy 2010

I stumbled across Bill McBirnie while reviewing Four80East...A rare find. The jazz flute world for the more serious minded musicians and fans alike has seen Hubert Laws Herbie Mann, and Dave Valentin turn in heavyweight performances but The Bill McBirnie Duo/Quartet and Mercy is an eclectic mix that is as technically proficient and artistically gifted as  any flute recording to date. To be blunt, he swings his ass off.  

"Extreme Flute" McBirnie is why I champion the Independent artist in a sea of the overly commercial sonic Valium that has been released by some flute players over the last twenty years or so. Sure, taste is subjective however McBirnie has the uncanny if not unusual ability to transcend styles, genres and format driven radio with ease and without ever sacrificing his artistic integrity.

Mercy has McBirnie paired up with Robi Botos for a series of duos and quartet pieces running the table from such luminaries as Hubert Laws, Sonny Rollins, and  Dizzy Gillespie. A hard hitting swing combined with a stellar rhythm section takes this myriad of styles and bebop infused genres to a totally different level. The ability to dial it down and change dynamics is well chosen with the standard "Willow Weep For Me." One would be forced to think long and hard for a flautist to take on the daunting task of the harmonically challenging "Yardbird Suite' from Charlie Parker which for some is the Holy Grail for bebop. The lyrical direction and incredibly timed reharms of Hubert Laws "Baila Cinderella" and John Coltrane's "Moments Notice' give us clear indication of an artist that both understands and respects the historical significance of such work without disrespecting himself or the original. A blowing session? In a word, yes! The release concludes with a more introspective ballad which is the title track "Mercy" featuring pianist Robi Botos. The rhythm section here is foot to the floor when needed with Pat Collins on bass and John Sumner on drums.

Giving an artistic frame of reference is something I try and shy away from as each artist is an individual. "Sounds like?" Think of a musical happy place between Hubert Laws and Dave Valentin and you may just have the best flute player to hit the scene in a quarter century. From pristine sound quality to playing with the skill and finesse of a surgeon - everything works here!

Mercy is available at iTunes, major retailers and from CD Baby. You can also order the release through:
Indie Pool Canada
118 Berkeley Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 2W9 ...or call 1-888-884-6343

Not many critics would be offering up sales information for an artist at no charge but then again...I'm not most critics. I write for the listener and for the artist and Bill McBirnie is the poster boy for why I am here.

Tracks: Baila Cinderella; Willow Weep For Me; Airegin; Stuffy Turkey; Gentle Rain; I'm Walkin'; Yardbird Suite; Way Down Yonder In New Orleans; Moment's Notice; Minha Saudade; Groovin' High; Mercy.

Personnel: Bill McBirnie: flute; Robi Botos: piano; Pat Collins: bass; John Sumner: drums.