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Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones | Grain of Sand

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Extreme Flute Website

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Grain of Sand

by Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones

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.
Genre: Brazilian: Bossa Nova
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Grain of Sand
4:48 $0.99
2. Se Eu Fico Com Você (If I Stay With You)
5:01 $0.99
3. Quando a Chuva Cai (As the Rain Falls)
4:41 $0.99
4. Izabel (Isabel)
4:04 $0.99
5. Lembrando Paul Horn (Remembering Paul Horn)
2:06 $0.99
6. Breque Trio a Trêz (Break Samba Trio for Three)
4:40 $0.99
7. Carnaval Blue (Blue Carnival)
3:25 $0.99
8. Vai Bem Devagar (Proceed With Caution)
5:24 $0.99
9. Cê Tá Com Tudo (You Are Everything)
4:43 $0.99
10. A Ponte Para Carlton (The Carlton Bridge)
4:33 $0.99
11. Na Quinta Esquina (On the Fifth Corner)
4:05 $0.99
12. Motel Cê Que Sabe (Who Knows Motel)
5:06 $0.99
13. Com Ou Sem Você, Meu Amor (With or Without You, My Love)
5:14 $0.99
14. Grão de Areia (Grain of Sand)
3:35 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes

Bill McBirnie – flute, alto flute (tracks 3 & 14) & piccolo (track 9)
Bruce Jones – guitar, vocal, percussion & synths

Compositions – by Bruce Jones (SOCAN); except tracks 3, 5, 9, 11 & 13 by Bruce Jones & Bill McBirnie (SOCAN)

Produced by – Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones
Co-Produced by – Martha Cisneros
Recorded at – Da Da Music, Toronto, Ontario
Engineered by – Bruce Jones
Edited & Mixed by – Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones
Mastered by – Pacy Shulman at Hilo Studio, Toronto, Ontario
Cover Photo by – Gongbass
Layout, Design & Manufacturing by – Staci Patten, Accurate Audio, Toronto, Ontario

Bill plays a Wm. S. Haynes flute, a DynaLance headjoint (made by Guo Musical Instrument Co.), an Armstrong alto flute and a Gemeinhardt piccolo.


Bruce Jones and I first collaborated about 15 years ago on my debut album, Desvio (which was subsequently nominated for a Toronto Independent Music Award). This initial recording project came about as a consequence of working regularly with Bruce's Brazilian rock band, Da, and as a further consequence of dressing tracks for Bruce on his various Da, Amazon Dreams and other recording projects. After a while, I had done so much work with Bruce (whose songwriting I always admired) that I suggested to him, “Maybe we should try and do a flute-oriented project.” To my surprise, Bruce was more than happy to oblige and that suggestion evolved into our first album, Desvio, which he dubbed “extrema flauta” (and which we anglicized as “Extreme Flute”).

Our musical paths diverged thereafter but, about a year ago, Bruce asked me to do some dressing for a couple of tracks he was working on. This went really well and, in the course of doing so, I learned that Bruce had a lot of material in various stages of completion on his hard drive. Once again, I suggested to him, “Maybe we should extend ourselves and do another flute-oriented project.” Yet again, Bruce was happy to oblige and Grain of Sand is the result. As fate would have it, this project has evolved into another incarnation of Extreme Flute!

Bruce is—and always has been—enormously talented, on multiple dimensions. Musically, what he does is ostensibly Brazilian (in no small measure because he was raised in Brazil). However, he combines that rich musical heritage with many other influences, ranging from rock & roll and hip-hop to new age.  For me, the big draw in working with Bruce has always been both the diversity of his material and his openness to improvisation (which is what I like to do most of all). These features of his work have always provided us with a solid basis for collaboration—both then and now.

A project of this nature—involving just the two of us—takes considerable time to complete and so it inevitably proceeds in stages. Each track starts with Bruce writing, playing and recording whatever idea he has in mind. After Bruce has laid down what is often a fairly complete track, we then overlay any flute melodies he has in mind. In addition, we conjure up shots and harmony parts and overdub these. After that, we go back and I improvise over the entire track. Finally, we take whatever we have (...which is typically far too much...) edit it and mix it down. Of course, we “subtract” far more than we “add” as the process unfolds until sooner or later (...usually later...) we find what we're after.

The end result of this most recent collaboration, Grain of Sand, is both a fitting theme and title, because there always has been—and there always will be—a lot more from wherever this came.

Finally, Bruce and I would like to express our sincere gratitude to Canada's premier jazz station, Jazz.FM91, for including “Tudo Bem” (a track from our first collaboration, Desvio) in their spin cycle for what is now close to 15 years!

Bill McBirnie

grão de areia

sâo mais de sete billões de estrelas
que brilham na noite de lua cheia
e eu sou só um pingo de agua
e eu sou só um grão de areia
e a chuva que cai

o vento vem, maré tambem
a onda quebra, e eu tambem
o vento vem, maré tambem
eu sem você...eu sem nimguém...

grain of sand

there are more than seven billion stars
that shine in this moon-lit night
and i am just a drop of water
and i am just a grain of sand
and the rain falls

the wind blows, the tide comes in
the wave breaks, and so do i
the wind blows, the tide comes in
i'm without you...i'm all alone...


Grain of Sand
Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones
(Extreme Flute – EF07)

GRAIN OF SAND: Fifteen years after the release of their first collaboration, Desvio, Bill McBirnie and Bruce Jones team up once again to produce Grain of Sand, a fresh, new incarnation of “Extreme Flute” featuring, once again, Bill in his singular capacity as “flautist extraordinaire” and Bruce in his multiple capacities as composer, vocalist, performer, arranger and engineer. The results (which consist entirely of originals) are alternately joyful and plaintive, hypnotic and dreamy—yet consistently incantatory. Grain of Sand will resonate with listeners whose tastes range from samba to ambient, from urban to jazz. Desvio, was recently (albeit belatedly) nominated for a Toronto Independent Music Award (TIMA) in the Best Instrumental Category. Just a little good karma will ensure that Grain of Sand does at least as well!

BILL MCBIRNIE: Despite a rather uneventful musical beginning in the small town of Port Colborne, Ontario, Bill has attained an international standing as one of the finest flutists in jazz, even though he rarely sets foot outside his domicile of Toronto, Ontario. Bill's longstanding commitment to the instrument has earned him unqualified accolades as well as awards, here in Canada and abroad, including Flutist of the Year (Jazz Report Award), Best Jazz Album (Toronto Independent Music Awards) and a Best Jazz Album nomination (Independent Music Awards in the USA). One of Bill's notable achievements is that he is the only flutist to have ever clinched a “triple crown” at the National Flute Association in the USA, winning all three of the jazz flute (1) Soloist, (2) Masterclass and (3) Big Band competitions. As a testimony to his singular place in the global flute community, Bill was personally solicited by Sir James Galway in 2005 to serve as the resident Jazz Flute Specialist at Sir James' official web site.

BRUCE JONES: Over the course of many years, Bruce has integrated Brazilian, rock and other folkloric elements into an ongoing series of unique and personal musical statements. Although Bruce grew up near Sao Paul, Brazil (where he studied formally at the Academia Paulista de Musica), he ultimately settled in Canada (where he continued to study performance and composition at the Royal Conservatory of Music). Both his North and South American roots have resulted in a singular musical sensibility that has attracted a dedicated following of fans and musicians alike, including some of Canada’s finest jazz musicians who have admired the originality of his work and, for that reason, sought to play in his live bands, Cocada and Da. Indeed, two of Bruce's earlier recordings (Canada Eh! and Sarava Criola), were designated by journalist and critic, Andrew Sun, as "...among the most fascinating Canadian records ever made..."

Contact: Bill McBirnie – Extreme Flute
Phone: (416) 652-1541
E-mail: extremeflute@look.ca



to write a review

Michelle Giardine

Smell the Brazilian coffee!
Grain of Sand is a masterpiece. And I don't say that very often; never, actually! Can't stop playing it. The original songs are perfectly chosen and make for a fuller-than- full listening experience. And of course, your flute playing is epic, powerful and mesmerizing. I can really smell the Brazilian coffee now!

Sir James Galway

...It's just a great record...
Hi Bill,

I meant to write you months ago when I listened to your record. It is without doubt the most outstanding record I’ve heard for a very long time by a flute player. I loved everything you did on it, playing on playback, I should say recording on playback, the alto flute and all the rest. It’s just a great record and I carry it everywhere. In fact, I loaded it into my iTunes so that I can listen to some decent flute playing on the road.

I hope you and Svet are well and happy. Best wishes, and a happy new Chinese year.



Grain of Sand has finally been getting some critical response, all of which has
“…Drawing inspiration from Brazilian samba, maracatú, forró and choro, Bill McBirnie and Bruce Jones create a fresh, unique, seductive and focused sound…Although each of the fourteen pieces has its own identity, they share a consistency that could easily be perceived as a discourse on one continuous thought…” (RAUL DA GAMA, Latin Jazz Network)

“…McBirnie fits into this style of music perfectly as he demonstrates remarkable power and control. He is a superb soloist. As I listened to this CD, over and over again, I noticed how fluid all the arrangements were. The whole album flows, from one moment to the next…” (DAVID SWIDERSKI, BandBlurb.com)

“Bill McBirnie and Bruce Jones blend a delightful taste of jazz with soul to deliver a thoroughly compelling performance…From the production level, to the musicianship, to the mind-blowing flute solos, “Grain of Sand” delivers in grand fashion…” (CHRIS JACQUIN, Rock n’ Roll View)

“…This record excited me because it’s outside the realm of our typical submissions, but even more so because this Extreme Flute album has kept my spirits high, my mind focused, and my mood uplifted for the past couple of weeks…” (JOSHUA SMOTHERMAN, Middle Tennessee Music)

“…The strategic interweaving of melody and impressive flute performances are an absolute delight…” (NICK KOTTENSTETTE, GigBand.com)

“This CD is wonderful! BRAVO!” (PAULA ROBISON, Distinguished American Classical Flute Soloist)

Leonid Auskern

First Review - Grain of Sand - JAZZQUAD.RU
Bill McBirnie & Bruce Jones - Grain Of Sand
Leonid Auskern, JAZZQUAD.RU (05.02.2015)

The works of the fine Canadian flutist Bill McBirnie (winner of many prestigious awards) have been reviewed more than once on our site more than once. Indeed, he opened his discography here fifteen years ago with his debut album, Desvio, which he also recorded with guitarist, singer and songwriter, Bruce Jones. And now, along a bend in the road, their creative paths have crossed once again with their new joint project, Grain Of Sand.

The duo format, based on many of Bill's previous recordings, is one of his favourites. In this instance, both musicians produced the album and co-wrote five of the fourteen songs. The rest of the tunes were written by Bruce Jones. In any case, the entire album is very loyal to the Brazilian musical tradition. I deliberately chose not to use the word "jazz" here (although Grain Of Sand demonstrates jazz improvising of the highest quality) because this album covers a much wider range of genres (which I will discuss later). Their musical choices are entirely logical, for both musicians, because Latin music has always been a priority with Bill McBirnie and also with Bruce Jones who, despite his Anglo-Saxon name, has strong ties with Brazil. Although both Jones and McBirnie now live in Toronto, Jones only moved to Canada after having been raised in Brazil, so it is not surprising that a Brazilian component occupies such a central place in his work.

In Grain Of Sand, McBirnie’s brilliant flute technique and sensitive improvisatory style happily unite with Jones’ diverse skills and genuine gift for songwriting as they demonstrate their shared love for Brazilian music. You will sense the empathy between them immediately, from the opening track of the album, “Grain of Sand”, where bossa nova is fused with the plaintive melody of traditional Portuguese fado. Flickering like a candle caressed by the wind, the sound of Bill’s flute enchants the listener, right from the opening few bars.  And following this tender opening comes a whirlwind of samba rhythms combined with hip-hop vocals and yet more flawless flute improvisation on “If I Stay With You”.  Just these two opening tracks portray the scope of moods in the music awaiting you on the rest of this album!

Over and above these opening tracks, I especially liked the funky “Blue Carnival” and the heartfelt dedication to yet another famous flutist, “Remembering Paul Horn”, an excellent duet for just the flute and guitar. (I have only cited the English titles here but there are also Portuguese titles for each track.)

Of course, all of this is very subjective. Objectively speaking, Grain Of Sand is intended for listeners with varying tastes; Latin, jazz, ethnic, ambient, lovers of the flute. Everyone will find something in this album to call their own. And if their first collaboration, Desvio, only belatedly received a nomination for a Toronto Independent Music Award, then I venture to say that this new project will receive even higher acclaim.

© 2015 Extreme Flute
Bill McBirnie – fl, alto fl (tks 3,14), piccolo (tk 9); Bruce Jones – g, voc, perc, synths
14 tks / 62 mins

Toronto Independent Music Awards

TIMA Winner!
Grain of Sand (Bruce Jones & Bill McBirnie - Extreme Flute) tops the BEST INSTRUMENTAL category at this year's Toronto Independent Music Awards (TIMAs)!