JazzMonthly.com Artist Spotlight
The Bill McBirnie Trio
It’s not that easy for someone to keep “out-doing” himself, but that’s exactly what virtuoso flautist Bill McBirnie has done again with his latest release “Find Your Place.” It’s McBirnie’s sixth album as a leader, and man, he and his trio explode with some real honest playing that is just so gratifying! “Find Your Place” on the “Extreme Flute” label is a “smorgasbord” of excellent musical styles and genres… served up by McBirnie and his men, Bernie Senensky on Hammond B3 organ, and Anthony Michelli on drums.
Cole Porter’s “So In Love” gets us going with a funky-samba groove, and there is some great playing and soloing here. “Yes Indeed” which was Sy Oliver’s gospel hit for Tommy Dorsey, swings and shuffles and joyously kicks. Especially pleasing is the way that Michelli breaks from the usual ride cymbal, and supports his bandmates with a syncopated, fat backbeat. Of course the trio recorded Horace Silver’s “Sister Sadie” before Silver just recently passed away—making their version even more poignant! The clean, crisp cuts, kicks and stops are a true reverence to Silver and his brilliant composition. Now… what on Earth is this wonderful trio gonna do with The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling?” Well, they dispensed with the usual 12/8 triplet feel, and gave us a refreshing nice ‘n easy swing; they all really held back, and let the song open up on its own-- for which they should all be applauded. Bravo, McBirnie and band!
Gigi Gryce’s 16 measure classic “Minority” sounds like a whole hard bop full ensemble. It’s hard to believe that it’s only three guys playing here. The loose interplay between stickman Michelli’s rhythm and Senensky’s pulsing B3 pushes it all along in a super charged way! Track number 6, “Estate” is as tasteful as it gets--- no overplaying here by any of these three tremendous musicians. The always thoughtful, always “musical” McBirnie really gives out in his distinctive, highly spirited way on Duke Pearson’s “Jeannine.” There are a lot of absorbing twists and turns on this intricate piece. I guess the mellowest tune on this great CD is “ Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You.” You hear the group’s true musicianship on this one. Wayne Shorter’s challenging opus “Yes Or No” has a lot of humor and really captures the Blue Note, post-bop energy, and with a Latin groove—which is very impressive. “Soy Califa” gives us an Island/Samba—touch of Jamaican Mento here. Each member of the trio really gets to shine on this one. As if all this isn’t enough, McBirnie, Senensky, and Michelli “dot and dash” us in a really hip way with Thelonious Monk’s “Rhythm-A-Ning.” I’m used to hearing it played as a sax lead; Bill’s sparkling, kick-butt flute inspires me, and makes me want to dance! The last and final track is a composition by the reflective, nonpareil leader McBirnie-- “Find Your Place.” He dedicates it to his lovely wife Svetlana. Make sure you listen…and keep listening--all the way through on this. As it fades to nothing, you can practically hear the guys still breathing, still there… still holding on--- as if they didn’t want this tune or this album to end. I feel the same way!