Bill McBirnie and Bruce Jones have arrived with something fresh and exciting for our ears on their new album Grain of Sand.
I had the opportunity to ask the flute behind Extreme Flute a few questions. Continue reading to learn more, listen to music, and find links to show your support.
Who is Bill McBirnie and how many years has it taken him to become the flautist extraordinaire he is today?
I am actually a rather obscure Canadian jazz/Latin flutist who has been around for a long time. I’ve been working at what I do for many, many years now and I’ve finally started to get some international recognition. For example, Sir James Galway found out about me a few years ago and asked me to be the Resident Jazz Flute Specialist at his website (…and it’s reasonable to assume that Sir James had his pick of a lot of other jazz flutists!… 🙂 ) In any case, I started out as a classical flutist and I developed a good sound and a strong technique when I quite young, because I was completely captivated by the instrument, right from the start. However, in my early twenties, I decided I didn’t want to have to read music all the time. I wanted to improvise instead, and jazz afforded me the opportunity to improvise. So I switched idioms. But I had to figure out how to modify my classical technique so that it would work in jazz situations (and there were no teachers or books on this) so I had to do a lot of “tinkering” on my own. Of course, I also had to learn how to improvise at the same time (which is an ongoing process). I also found that I had to branch out into other idioms (Latin, pop, R&B, soul, etc.) So I just kept working and working at it, year after year, and eventually I started to make some progress.
I dig the name Extreme Flute. Where did that come from?
In fact, Bruce Jones came up with that name. He called our first collaboration, “Extrema Flauta” (a project we did about 15 years ago which was entitled, Desvio). But we decided to anglicize the name to “Extreme Flute”. By the way, Bruce came up with the adjective, “extreme”, not because I use any extended techniques (such as beat-boxing…which I refuse to do… 🙂 ) but rather because Desvio, like Grain of Sand, was such a flute-centric project.
Why Bruce Jones? You guys make a great team, but how did that partnership come about?
Well, I remember first hearing Bruce’s Brazilian-rock band, Da, at the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival sometime in the early 90’s. I was taken with everything about the band. Right from that first hearing, I said to myself, “…I want to be in this band!…” So I approached Bruce after the concert and I tried to talk to him. But I suspect that he thought I was a “nobody” or some kind of “musical hanger on”, because it was a very long time before he ever got back to me…but when he did, I was in the band!… 🙂
What is your favorite piece from Grain of Sand?
I really don’t have a favorite piece because I love – and I really “connect” with – ALL of Bruce’s writing. He’s brilliant, enormously talented, and Grain of Sand reflects HIS musical personality. Even though the flute is very up-front, I’m really just going along for the ride! However, I couldn’t have done this recording project without Bruce, and likewise Bruce couldn’t have done this project without me. And we could collaborate on things like this forever. Only a bit has surfaced in our two existing recording projects (just like a couple of grains of sand, I suppose). What is amazing to me is that, in both cases (with Desvio as well as Grain of Sand), Bruce is able to come up with pieces that are incredibly diverse and yet, when we finally put together enough material for an album, all of the pieces fit together with a real sense of continuity and flow…And that is very much Bruce’s doing!…And I really don’t know how he does it!…