Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bill McBirnie Find Your Place EF06 / 2013

Bill McBirnie is Canada's best kept musical secret!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
Bill McBirnie is bringing jazz flute out of the shadows and back to center stage where it belongs. With Find Your Place, The Bill McBirnie Trio runs the sonic spectrum from a Latin riff on Cole Porter's "So In Love" to the bright and breezy bossa closer that is the original composition "Find Your Place." The amazing aspect of this release is that this is not an organ trio but a trio with a Hammond B3. Bernie Senensky provides an artful harmonic counterpoint to McBirnie's lyrical direction while drummer Anthony Michelli elevates "in the pocket" to another dimension.
The material here is first rate, "Soy Califa" from Dexter Gordon and the Thelonious Monk tune "Rhythm-A-Ning" are two immediate standouts but I would be remiss if I didn't touch on the shuffle arrangement of the Lennon/ McCartney classic "Oh! Darling." The Wayne Shorter modal tune "Yes Or No" is executed with precision and flair. The previously mentioned title track "Find Your Place" is a gorgeous number written for his wife Svetlana and were it not for a working knowledge of the other tunes here, this could easily be mistaken for a long lost Jobim tune. The flute has been long overlooked or been relegated to the status of a Latin only instrument. McBirnie is cut from that Hubert Laws / Sir James Galway cloth yet provides a completely unique experience as an artistic voice to be reckoned with. I first became acquainted with the work of McBirnie when reviewing the latest 480 East release, a new voice for modern jazz flute! 

Another amazing aspect to Find Your Place is the sound. Bill McBirnie conjures up a nice fat rolling sound that bodes incredibly well for such an eclectic trio. Organic and evocative there is a smoldering undercurrent of harmonic depth and lyrical sense of urgency that hearkens back to the days when real men played jazz for fun not just for profit. An old fashioned blowing session might be a tad cliche but if it walks like a duck...Bill McBirnie is one of those all too rare jazz triple threats in that his prolific talents cuts a wide path as performer, composer, and educator.

There is nothing to grind on here as McBirnie demonstrates his command of multiple genres and the chameleon like ability to find a lyrical home in each. Hubert Laws, Sir James Galway, Dave Valentin, Bill McBirnie...it all seems to fit! Find Your Place is an apt title for a release that is  flawless and has McBirnie as a talent whose artistic stock is an arrow pointing straight up!

Tracks: So In Love; Yes Indeed!; Sister Sadie; Oh! Darling; Minority; Estate; Jeannine; Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You; Yes Or No; Soy Califa; Rhythm-A-Ning; Find Your Place.
Personnel: Bill McBirnie: Flute; Bernie Senensky: Hammond B3 Organ; Anthony Michelli: Drums