Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

276

Bill McBirnie: Mercy

Raul d'Gama Rose By

Sign in to view read count
By its very nature and high and lonesome sound, the flute is a solitary instrument. Although played from ancient times, the modern flute as a solo voice has been rather seldom heard compared to other woodwind—especially reed—instruments. But non-existent it is certainly not. First Frank Wess then Herbie Mann and Hubert Laws work certainly comes to mind. In Canada the instrument has been a part of the fine tradition that owes much to Moe Koffman, and lately the maestro, Bill McBirnie. The flutist's self-produced Mercy is a true gem.

The record comprises a series of duo and quartet recordings—duets mostly featuring the unbridled talent of a young Romani pianist from Toronto, Robi Botos, and quartets with Botos, the celebrated bassist Pat Collins and drummer John Sumner, both first call musicians from the Toronto and West Coast circuits. But mostly it is McBirnie who takes a stellar turn throughout, sharing the spot with Botos, who is also flawless in his understated elegance and thoughtful playing. The repertoire on the album consists of beautifully chosen charts that highlight the flutist's skill in the idioms of jazz and Latin music. While the music is rendered with little fuss, it is wonderfully adorned by both McBirnie and Botos.

Ann Ronell's "Willow Weep For Me," a track that was made his own by the great Art Tatum is rendered in an exceedingly moving manner by McBirnie in conversation with Botos. It is as if both musicians "cry" in turn for some lost love—Botos' breaks are as memorable as McBirnie's great flights of emotional fantasy. On "Yardbird Suite" the credits are much the same, with McBirnie and Botos playing opposites in a similar vein to that which Charlie Parker and Bud Powell once did. "Stuffy Turkey," a Thelonious Monk original, finds Botos in an expansive mood as he navigates the angular melody in inimitable fashion.

Botos is a singular pianist who echoes almost no one though he may have heard Tommy Flanagan and Herbie Hancock. His playing, however, is of his own invention. His solos proceed slowly as he interweaves delicate harmony into the melodies that remain only vaguely familiar as they morph into fluttering songs quite his own. Luis Bonfa's "Gentle Rain" and John Coltrane "Moment's Notice" are two of the finest Botos solos committed to record. His playing with McBirnie—especially on his own composition, "Mercy"—is also exceedingly beautiful.

McBirnie, however, is the record's hero. In a relatively unassuming manner he has recast the way the flute is played. His breathing is easy and sustained and his control over that narrow shaft of air is complete. Moreover he is one of the most creative flutists—a true inheritor of the great tradition created by Canadian masters including Koffman and Jane Bunnett, the Irishman James Galway, and the French master, Jean-Pierre Rampal.

Mercy is a record that flows in gorgeous rivers of sound and one that defines how the modern flute is played.

Track Listing: Baila Cinderella; Willow Weep For Me; Airegin; Stuffy Turkey; Gentle Rain; Im Walkin; Yardbird Suite; Way Down Yonder In New Orleans; Moments Notice; Minha Saudade; Groovin High; Mercy.

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

Title: Mercy | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Self Produced


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Baby It's Cold Outside CD/LP/Track Review Baby It's Cold Outside
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Wrong Turns And Dead Ends CD/LP/Track Review Wrong Turns And Dead Ends
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Lavaman CD/LP/Track Review Lavaman
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32 CD/LP/Track Review Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32
by Don Phipps
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Bad Hombre CD/LP/Track Review Bad Hombre
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 12, 2017
Read Aladdin's Dream CD/LP/Track Review Aladdin's Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Clarinet (& Piano)" CD/LP/Track Review Clarinet (& Piano)
by John Eyles
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "Stereotomic" CD/LP/Track Review Stereotomic
by Geno Thackara
Published: April 18, 2017
Read "Seaside" CD/LP/Track Review Seaside
by John Eyles
Published: January 30, 2017
Read "Apocalypse" CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Tether" CD/LP/Track Review Tether
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 12, 2017
Read "Live at Club Helsinki" CD/LP/Track Review Live at Club Helsinki
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 17, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!