Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones – Grain of Sand (2015)
Score: 5/5 Stars
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 Jame’s Official web site.
His latest CD is entitled “Grain of Sand” was released in 2015. On this release McBirnie collaborates with Bruce jones ((guitar, Vocals, Percussion and Synths).
This powerful and eclectic album tells the story of a gifted player/composer with beautiful melodies, a smooth playing style, that is emotional and at times very refined sonic feel. Both McBirnie and Jones manage to thrive and develop their talent within such a colorful and productive environment such as this, particularly focusing on his Flute playing, singing and solo showmanship. McBirnie approaches his instrument in a unique, personal and charismatic way, bridging the gaps between genres the likes of Jazz, RnB, Funk, Latin, Blues and even pop, with an open mind and with an eclectic attitude. One gets the impression, early and often, that McBirnie is very much a diversified artist, almost to the point where everything else gives you hints of the above influences. For this style of music this approach works extremely well thus putting the spotlight of McBirnie’s depth as a player. Despite the collaboration, the focal point here is McBirnie’s playing and passion on full display. McBirnie holds his own remarkable well as a singer as well on “Grain of Sand” and a few others. The songwriting is far above average, with lush jazzy tones, and songs that naturally run their course not under duress, and a wide variety of musical tidbits offering the bulk of what makes this 14 track CD so impactful and enjoyable.
Lately with Movies/Film in particular the emphasis seems to be shifting from a good acting or effective character development to things like Special Effects and visual flash. Music is following down the same path. With Music the emphasis is shifting from good genuine songwriting and Top Flight vocal ability to more visual flash, cookie cutter songwriting, autotune theatrics and overly choreographed performances that lack spontaneity. For the most part Jones isn’t necessarily great at one thing as he is great at many things. My hats off to him for stepping up to the plate as he is a great advent behind McBirnie’s music. With McBrine sharing the spotlight with Jones, the genuine songwriting quality is there, the performances are pure gold, and the messages are clearly felt. “Grain of Sand” is a lighthearted showcase of fine musical and instrumental ability. My favorite songs are: “A Ponte Para Carlton”, “Motel Ce Que sabe”, Ce Ta Com Todu and Quandro A Chuva Cai”. Sure the vocal talents may not be to the level of world class Jazz singers – but they both get their point across in spades. McBirnie also possesses strong musical instincts behind the instrument as he knows how to turn it on and fade in the pocket. In this aspect he reminds me of Prince Lasha, Lloyd McNeil, Byard Lancaster, James Newton and Joe Henderson. All instrumentation equal parts intimate, equal parts intricate providing the perfect underpinning each song needs to make a real connection with the listener. Musicianship is undeniably appealing from all involved. Also worthy of note is the crisp production work, which does a definitive job in highlighting the band’s strengths while keeping a nice sonic flow in the process.
The more you are emotionally in-tune with McBirnie’s messages and music, the more powerful her lament will become. I find myself more intrigued by this concept, although the concept by itself is at best a loose thing that is hard to pinpoint. In other words you have to be in the mood to fully grasp this record thus maximizing the impact. When I eventually got to that emotional place some of the songs became intoxicating. I Admit some Fie wine helped up the ante. McBirnie’s songs have punch, variety and emotive impact compatible with reality – and this is the beauty of the title and concept that is
In close Bill McBirnie and Bruce Jones are not some tacky superficial artists trying to get your attention; they are both master artists who know exactly what they are doing. The music on “Grain of Sand” is real, and it’s what the world needs right now, regardless of the music business money making ventures. Need I say more?