Toronto-based Flautist Bill McBirnie presents a handful of jazz and Latin classics in a whirlwind tour of everything from a cha cha version of Hubert Laws’ dynamic "Balla Cinderella" to takes on "Yardbird Suite" and "Moment's Notice." This is not a timid musician. He came to play. In both duo and quartet formats he dazzles.
His third outing as a leader sees him gorgeously interpret "Willow Weep for Me" accompanied only by the brilliant pianist Robi Botos. The following take on the Sonny Rollins classic "Airegin" adds drummer John Sumner and bassist Pat Collins. The quartet delivers a finger-snapping version of the rarely heard Monk tune, "Stuffy Turkey." Again, the duo delivers a superb take on Luis Bonfa’s "Gentle Rain" before diving into a swinging "I’m Walkin’." The flautist takes that same trip in "Way Down Yonder In New Orleans," with just Botos joining on board. In every instance McBirnie’s technique is flawless, dynamic and often just jaw-dropping.
The juxtaposition of duo versus quartet throughout the set is well executed. Those compositions that feature the duet are nothing less than stunning, though the rhythm section is exquisite. Collins has an impressive solo on Joao Donato’s "Minha Saudade," on which Sumner’s intricate and rhythmic time keeping impressing equally.
The quartet delivers the Dizzy Gillespie-penned "Groovin’ High" at a quick paced gallop. McBirnie’s formidable chops are given a workout here that would drop a lesser player to their knees. The closing Botos-penned title piece is beautifully delivered by two unquestioned masters of their respective instruments. McBirnie’s tone is crisp and bright throughout, though he transcends rvrn his own brilliance on this delightful closer.
Bill McBirnie has been called Canada’s standout jazz flautist. I maintain he is one of the top two three in the world.