Bill McBirnie: Mercy (2010)
Flutist led jazz records are quite infrequent, which makes one of quality all the more a find. Toronto-based Bill McBirnie's Mercy is mostly comprised of standards from a variety of jazz styles. The only original composition is the title track, by pianist Robi Botos. The diversity in styles, from trad jazz to Latin, does not affect the unity of the recording's theme, but creates a unique multifaceted whole thanks to McBirnie's versatility and superlative musicianship.
McBirnie is a well-known flautist with numerous recognitions and recordings to his name, and on Mercy he lives up to his reputation. He is not only the leader, but also the sole woodwind on the front line. McBirnie sticks to playing the flute, unlike similar sessions led by the likes of Bobby Jaspar and Yusef Lateef, where they alternate between flute and other reed instruments.
For most of his bopish tracks McBirnie has chosen compositions by saxophonists, and he wields his instrument with great agility and facility through the intricacies of the melody and the improvised solos. He swings hard during the up-tempo pieces and shows remarkable sensitivity without losing the creative edge during the duet ballads with Botos. He has his own sound on the flute, which is vaguely reminiscent of Jaspar's, albeit a bit huskier.
The rhythm section provides sympathetic solid support throughout. Botos solos on almost all the pieces while the other members do so occasionally. All three musicians demonstrate remarkable artistry throughout the set, both in the group interplay and when under the spotlight.
The music is not revolutionary nor do the solos venture too far from the original melody. Yet the improvisations are creative enough to make listening to them a highly enjoyable experience.
Bill McBirnie and his fellow musicians have produced a musical work that, while not breaking fresh ground, maintains enough innovative creativity, thanks to their superior musical skills, to reward repeated listenings.
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.