Bill McBirnie and Bernie Senensky aren’t playing games with their new collaborative full length The Silent Wish – they’re straight up cratering the modern jazz world with their ambitious drive to make intrepid music for intrepid times. In 2018, everything is about change, and by change I mean being bigger and better than all that existed in the past, and The Silent Wish encapsulates the energy of our times better than any other record you’ll hear this year. Illuminated by the McBirnie’s flute and guided by the steady hand of Senensky, twelve songs stand between the audience and a supremely textured musical nirvana that doesn’t share the spotlight with another actively touring artist or band that I’ve reviewed in my ten years of writing.
Nothing can drown out McBirnie’s impeccable flute play in The Silent Wish, and he shows us just how much thunder he can generate in the medley of “Saber Cair / Knowing How to Fall.” No matter how mountainous the wall of sound might be or how intimidating the backbeat of the song appears, his instrument pierces through it and leaves only shards of rhythm that we cling to like a warm blanket on a cold rainy night. “No Moon At All” is another song that belongs on his greatest hits repertoire; if you’ve been following McBirnie for as long as I have, you too will be left almost speechless by the depth of his play on this record. I’d challenge the most rigidly anti-jazz listeners to give these songs a focused listen and not walk away with a completely new perspective on the style.
There’s an exotic, otherworldly quality to The Silent Wish, but it only adds to the fluidity of the experimental design of the record as opposed to slowing it down. A lot of similarly constructed LPs would have cracked up by the eighth track just in trying to maintain a sense of cohesiveness, but McBirnie and Senensky stay strong to the finish line and don’t bore us with any unnecessary bells and whistles along the way. I’d really love to see a supporting tour for this record; I have a feeling this material would sound even more amazing in a live setting, more specifically in a small, intimate club.
Instrumental albums have traditionally had hard time cracking the mainstream, but this is a record that even the most discriminating music fan won’t find difficult to embrace. He’s been circling the outer gates of the jazz establishment for some time, but The Silent Wish could be the record that finally breaks Bill McBirnie into the mainstream once and for all (where personally I’ve always felt he belonged). Time will be the ultimate judge, but having given this record my complete undivided attention this last week, I have to say that everything in my heart tells me this is going to end up being McBirnie’s most impactful work. His pairing with Senensky is of heavenly will, and it just might be what his career needed to finally get the recognition he’s always been worthy of.