Include Bill McBirnie as an integral player in Canadian jazz. The Toronto-based flautist has marked his credentials through recordings of his own, in addition to appearances on albums by Junior Mance, Memo Acavedo, and Irakere; jam sessions at the Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo; and appearances with Herbie Mann, Dizzy Gillespie, and Art Blakey. Listening to McBirnie makes his credentials clear. He dips into the nectar of a melody and his dulcet tones rise to trigger the core of his imagination for some interesting improvisational flights. These facets are abundantly manifest on Paco Paco.
The music of John Coltrane has a special attraction for McBirnie. The snap this quartet brings into "Like Sonny" is fuelled by the whorls and dips of the flute that fall neatly into place, as well as the quick trajectories that bring in an edginess which gives the pulse an extra tick. Another flavor that characterizes McBirnie's music is Latin jazz. His version of "O Grande Amor" has a thick streak of emotion, the swell of the flute encapsulating the passion.
Bernie Senensky is a perfect cohort, his sense of harmony and invention adding to the pith. Senensky wrote the title tune, on which he scoots off and then lures McBirnie, the beat hot before it settles into a Brazilian groove with Senensky bringing in a bright tempo, egged on by drummer John Sumner. McBirnie gets his own, extending ideas in delightful swirl.
McBirnie's sense of arrangement must be acknowledged. It comes across strikingly on "Stand Up, Stand Up For Jesus." The first minute is a sweet intonation of the melody by McBirnie, before it turns to a march beat with Senensky, Sumner, and Neil Swainson journeying on, helmed by the pianist, whose constant forge is change. A side step into New Orleans, a swish of swing, and then back to a march as McBirnie gets the swagger and the action. A delight by any means!
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