RANDY MULLER (Producer, Plaza Records, NYC) - Excellent performance! You managed to transform that piece of tubing into a thing of beauty. You also managed to defy my long-held belief in monotheism because, until hearing your Extreme Flute CD, I firmly believed that Hubert Laws was THE Flute God. Now I have to say he shares that lofty stature with none other than you. Your performance – manifesting excellence in technique, tone and improvisational style – is refreshing. As a veteran producer, writer, and flautist, thanks for the delicious inspiration.
KEN GREENE - The man can play! It's as thought the instrument is playing him!
MAGGIE - Wow! One of my top favourites. Thanks, Bill!
I would like to say a few words about each of the selections because there is quite a broad range of material here.
1 – CRESCENT WRENCH is in a salsa groove. The tune is based loosely on the title track from the classic John Coltrane album, Crescent. I have always liked the basic harmony of this piece because it unfolds in an absorbing way without ever resolving in an obvious manner. This particular track is dedicated to a great percussionist and my long-standing friend, Memo Acevedo.
2 – FIND YOUR PLACE is a relaxed bossa nova in A-B-A format. The A-section is in a minor mode while the B-section is in two unrelated major keys. However, I let the last half of the tune vamp in a hypnotic, Bebel Gilberto fashion during which the major/minor motif is sustained but without any modulation until the end where it just rests on the minor.
3 – SCRATCH IT! is essentially a blues. However, in this selection, I surrender to the present day imperative by performing in a hip-hop mode. Both the changes and the form of the blues are modified slightly to suit a 14-bar format. This, the title track, is dedicated to two charming little girls, Alissa and Anastasia, with the proviso that, after each listening, they return to the works of Bach and Mozart!
4 – CANTO DE ESCRAVO (SLAVES SONG) is essentially a chant. It was written by Celso Machado of Vancouver, British Columbia. Celso is a truly remarkable Brazilian musician who has been living on the west coast of Canada for many years. In keeping with the plaintive and haunting original from his album, Varal, I perform this piece using just bass flute and grass percussion.
5 – I’M CONFESSIN’ (THAT I LOVE YOU) is an old jazz standard that I first heard played by the immortal Lester Young. Recently, I heard another version played by master organist, Joey DeFrancesco. His joyful rendering reminded me of what a great tune it was and prompted me to do a reading of it myself. I confess (and I really do!), I don’t perform this piece in a swing mode. However, the tempo is brisk enough that I take the liberty of bebopping on it extensively.
6 – FREE DIVING (VERSION 1) is an abstract solo piece utilizing interval and delay effects. It was inspired by the sport of deep water diving without an aqualung. The sport of free-diving is celebrated in the film, The Big Blue. Although this film brings out the highly competitive nature of free-diving, at the same time (and perhaps more importantly), it offers the viewer a glimpse of the other-worldliness of free-diving. There are two versions here. In both takes of Free-Diving, I exploit the instrument in a more textural manner, somewhat like a Japanese shakuhachi. In this first take, I perform on the C flute.
7 – SOUL SURVIVOR is a tribute to the music of Motown. I have always loved the work of Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye from the early 1960s. Many of the tunes they sang were simple but, no matter how simple they were, their renderings were always very soulful and very hip—and they remain so. This particular selection is in a shuffle mode and incorporates a conspicuous element of swing.
9 – SCRATH IT! – REPRISE – is a shorter version of the earlier take.
10 – MISSING YOU is a very slow and simple vehicle for the alto flute. I wrote a plain diatonic progression; however, I couldn’t seem to come up with a melody – plain or otherwise. So I ended up improvising over the entire piece though I did harmonize the cadence at the end of the first chorus with two alto flutes as it seemed to call for it.
11 – HONESTY, THRIFT & INDUSTRY is essentially a cha-cha-cha which is based on another great but over-looked composition by John Coltrane entitled, Like Sonny. The changes are very interesting so I work them over extensively. This particular track is dedicated to my Father.
12 – FREE DIVING (VERSION 2) is, of course, a follow-up to Free Diving (Version 1). However, in this version, I use the alto flute and, in addition, I over-cub another alto flute from time to time.
13 – THEME FROM ROCKY & BULLWINKLE is a zany melody from that old cartoon series of the 1960s. This piece used to serve as a signature turn for the bebop quintet of an old side-kick and cohort of mine, Mike Segal (an amazing alto saxophonist originally from Toronto, Ontario who is now living in West Berlin, Germany). Although this piece utilized the piccolo, I trust the listener will agree that this snippet is the ideal conclusion to EXTREME FLUTE.
My thanks to Stuart Steinhart of Lydian Sound in Toronto, Ontario who gave me both the idea and the impetus to do a follow-up to the first edition of Extreme Flute, (A Bill McBirnie/Bruce Jones Collaboration).
My gratitude also to two of the finest teachers one could ever ask for – Robert Aitken on flute and Frank Falco on improvisation – and both on music.
Finally, my very special thanks, and all my love, to Svetlana to whom I dedicate the results. This self-produced undertaking put me, in my mere capacity as a flutist, on what was at times a perpendicular learning curve, complete with all of the stresses and strains to which a fussy temperament is inclined. So I warmly appreciated Sveta’s unswerving patience and support in the face of what I (and, indeed, she) had to bear. Moreover, her unassuming and clear-sighted observations and comments were always enormously helpful to me. My only remaining hope is that, when she hears this, she will detect the little bits of her that are in it too...
Bill McBirnie – C Flute, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Piccolo, Miscellaneous Percussion, Composer (SOCAN), Yamaha Music Sequencer, Producer, Engineering, Mixing
Technical Information – AKG C2000B Microphone, ART Tube Microphone Preamp, Tascam 788 Digital Portastudio, TEAC CD-RW Recorder
Mastering – Andy Krehm for Silverbirch Productions, Toronto, Canada
Artwork – Sonia Haferkorn
Photography – Edie Steiner
Graphic Design – Bruce Longman
Bill McBirnie is a jazz and Latin flute specialist who has been personally solicited by Sir James Galway to serve as his
resident Jazz Flute Specialist at Sir James' official website. Bill also enjoys the unusual distinction of having been declared a winner in all three of the National Flute Association’s Jazz Flute (1) Soloist, (2) Masterclass and (3) Big Band Competitions in the US....more