Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones – Grain of Sand

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So enter Canadian Flue player Bill McBirnie and multi-talented Bruce Jones who together just released “Grain of Sand” in 2015. Bill is well known for his outstanding technique.  However, he is also recognized as an exceptional improviser (notably in the bebop, swing and Latin idioms) as demonstrated by his numerous recordings as a sideman with the likes of Junior Mance, Irakere, Memo Acevedo and Emilie-Claire Barlow.  Needless to say, Bill has performed and recorded extensively with Toronto’s finest musicians and has been a longstanding charter member of Bernie Senensky’s Moe Koffman Tribute Band. On “Grain of Sand” is alternately joyful and plaintive, hypnotic and dreamy—yet consistently incantatory. It will resonate with listeners whose tastes range from samba to ambient, from urban to jazz.

Right from the start McBirnie provides some hot to the touch Latin Funk and Modern “radio Friendly” Jazz. The title track “Grain of Sand” is the perfect kick-off for this classic yet distinctive style of music. By the way most songs are primarily Flute driven – lends you to feel something special. A few tracks like ‘Se Eu Fico Com Voce” (If I Stay With You) and :Quandro A Chuva Cai” (As the Rain Falls), and touching “Izabel” provide the perfect setting for McBirnie’s smooth playing as he’s also proves he’s got soul for a white guys. Make no bones about it this is a tight duo. Do I dare say I can hear a bit of Wayman Carver in his playing style. My favorite track “Breque Trio a Trez” (Break Samba Trio For Three) is another engaging song and, emotionally spot on and engaging music. There’s an almost spiritual sound to many tracks. I’m not sure that Many songs are definitely more Samba based rather than Jazz based, but I liked it a lot despite the somewhat stoned down sound – the album refuses to try to hard to win you over in an over the top display. McBirnie will get good draws at places that showcase live Jazz.

Many track delivers Latin Samba Funk as it some tracks come at you full board. “Grao e Areia” (Grain of Sand) ends as strongly as it ends. McBirnie is a good soloist within his own right. Laid back and perfectly comfortable in his skin he draws out his melody lines with a dramatic quality that is almost Anthony Braxton-like. He also invokes other masters like Hubert Laws, Marshall Allen, Bobby Jaspar, Herbie Mann, Bud Shank and Paul Horn among others. Those are some impressive names.

I cannot believe how long it’s been since I heard a good Latin-Jazz crossover album – until today. When all is said and done “Grain of Sand” has the best of both worlds. “Grain of Sand’ is a classic return of Classic Jazzy-Pop and it’s long overdue for my desk.  Yes – this is straight forward music in which the glue that binds it sometimes seems to be made of opposing forces, yet it comes together to form a perfect bit of symmetry and style. Bottom line: Sometimes it your destiny to walk with into a time where everything thing feels good and perfect. I also get the feeling McBirnie and Jones are not afraid to be themselves within a modern musical world. There’s a reason why they are playing the distinct style of music. Who knows where the future will lead? But one thing is for sure. When one listener to the music of is Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones it just makes things feel——-better.


Score: 8/10 Stars

– Clinton Roberts