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Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones: Grain of Sand

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Bill McBirnie

Bill McBirnie’s interpretations of this simple yet intricate music seems to affirm the supremacy of the flute while Bruce Jones picks up the proverbial slack, doing likewise with guitar, synthesisers, almost sotto voce singing, all of this in combination with an ample array of percussion instruments too numerous to name. Drawing inspiration from Brasilian samba, maracatú, forró and choro Bill McBirnie and Bruce Jones create fresh, unique and seductively focussed sound worlds of the three flutes of Bill McBirnie and Mr. Jones’ unconventionally matched instruments. Although each of the fourteen pieces, written over a number of years, has its own identity, they share enough similarity that they could easily be listened to as a discourse on one continuous thought.

Grain of Sand - Bill McBirnie & Bruce JonesBill McBirnie and Bruce Jones bookend the programme with confident, embracing performances of two of Mr. Jones’ moving soliloquies, “Grain of Sand” and “Grão de Areia”. As it should be the reference to the insignificance of things in the grander scheme of the universe is less obvious until you forget to listen for the cues, at which point it becomes Proustian. Much the same thing is accomplished on a larger scale in the rest of the fare, painstakingly created from uncommon wisdom and music such as “Quando a Chuva Cai” is performed with cool urban chic by this wonderful duo of Bill McBirnie and Bruce Jones.

In an acceptable over-exaggeration this is a fourteen-movement concerto—no orchestra here, but there need not be one—is absolutely magical in that it conjures up the breathtaking imagery of a Brasilian backdrop inhabited by a Carioca soon joined in by a Paulista, both of whom belong to the mystical sonic universe of this album. Slice-of-life vignettes from the urban landscape nestle cheek-by-jowl with broad vistas as the musicians’ aural expedition seems fated for sublimation into a digital cloud. “Lembrando Paul Horn” creates a world that begins with profound sadness, but soon levitates in the reanimation of life so vivid that the sounds of the instruments make themselves assume personalities as if they were characters in Heitor Villa-Lobos Bachianas.

Much of the other music, scored as if for a small chamber ensemble is endearingly both fanciful and romantic. And there are daring contrasts in energy levels between the music’s continuous sections. “Vai Bem Devagar” is a 6/8 rhythmic figure and is based on a familiar Brasilian melody. It suggests the euphonious sounds of João Gilberto’s music. In fact this chart as well as the others on this album seem to have been crafted and played by instruments made of expensive crystal. A quite rare performance indeed by Bill McBirnie and the ineffable Bruce Jones.

Track List: Grain of Sand; Se Eu Fico Com Você; Quando a Chuva Cai; Izabel; Lembrando Paul Horn; Breque Trio a Trêz; Carnaval Blue; Vai Bem Devagar; Cê Tá Com Tudo; A Ponte Para Carlton; Na Quinta Esquina; Motel Cê Que Sabe; Com Ou Sem Você, Meu Amor; Grão de Areia.

Personnel: Bill McBirnie: flute, alto flute (3 & 14) and piccolo (9); Bruce Jones: guitar, vocals, percussion and synthesizers.

Label: Extreme Flute
Release date: May 2015
Website: extremeflute.com
Buy music on: amazonPhoto credit: Roger Humbert

About Bill McBirnie

Bill McBirnie is a jazz and Latin flute specialist based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has studied with renowned American flutist, Samuel Baron, distinguished Canadian flutist and composer, Robert Aitken, as well as Cuban charanga legend, Richard Egues. Bill’s extraordinary level of skill as a flutist also prompted a personal solicitation from no less than Sir James Galway to serve as his Resident Jazz Flute Specialist at Sir James’ Official web site. Read more…

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Bill McBirnie

    May 15, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks so much for such a great review, Raul! (…I know that Bruce will appreciate it too!…) Sincerely, Bill McBirnie

  2. bruce jones

    May 16, 2015 at 3:01 am

    wow i want to thank you so much for a very well written review
    muito axe e obrigado

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