Bill McBirnie (Featuring Mark Eisenman) | Nature Boy

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Nature Boy

by Bill McBirnie (Featuring Mark Eisenman)

A straight-ahead acoustic jazz flute-and-rhythm-section format that really, REALLY swings!
Genre: Jazz: Bebop
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. What A Friend We Have In Jesus
Bill McBirnie (Extreme Flute)
7:53 $0.99
2. Monk's Dream
Bill McBirnie (Extreme Flute)
4:47 $0.99
3. Poinciana
Bill McBirnie (Extreme Flute)
10:45 $0.99
4. Lazy Bird
Bill McBirnie (Extreme Flute)
4:36 $0.99
5. Blue Lester - Take 1
Bill McBirnie (Extreme Flute)
5:36 $0.99
6. Bye Ya
Bill McBirnie (Extreme Flute)
4:02 $0.99
7. Teaneck
Bill McBirnie (Extreme Flute)
3:51 $0.99
8. Beatrice
Bill McBirnie (Extreme Flute)
6:22 $0.99
9. Billy Boy
Bill McBirnie (Extreme Flute)
7:04 $0.99
10. Blue Lester - Take 2
Bill McBirnie (Extreme Flute)
5:31 $0.99
11. Nature Boy
Bill McBirnie (Extreme Flute)
3:26 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Brief Bio

Bill McBirnie is a jazz and Latin flute specialist from Canada. He has studied with distinguished Canadian flutist and composer, Robert Aitken, as well as Cuban charanga legend, Richard Egues. Bill is known for his superior technique on the entire family of flutes (from bass flute to piccolo). He is also recognized as an accomplished improviser, notably in the bebop, swing and Latin idioms as illustrated by his recordings as a sideman with Junior Mance, Irakere, Memo Acevedo and Michele Mele. He has already produced two Extreme Flute projects of his own (namely, "Desvio" and "Scratch It!") and, most recently, a straight-ahead acoustic jazz recording under his own name featuring The Mark Eisenman Trio entitled, "Nature Boy". Bill has been chosen Flutist of the Year by the Jazz Report Awards and a winner of the U.S.A. National Flute Association's triennial Jazz Flute Masterclass Competition.

Following are just two reviews of "Nature Boy" (which has been spun on Bob Parlocha's syndicated jazz show and was voted number 4 in JazzFM91's Top 40 Jazz Albums for 2003).

The Whole Note Magazine, Discoveries - May 5, 2003
Independent and Small Label Releases

Nature Boy
Bill McBirnie
Extreme Flute EF03

Nature Boy is a welcome addition to my collection. Flutist McBirnie is just that: a Flutist, not a saxophone player doubling on the instrument. You can tell from the full-bodied tones on the opening track that this is a guy who has serious flute chops. McBirnie's accompanists on this recording are no slouches either - the Mark Eisenman Trio is one of the hardest swinging groups I've ever heard, live or on record.

Recorded in two sessions, straight to tape with no overdubs and few takes, Nature Boy gives listeners an honest portrayal of the musicians' skills and imparts an energy that's lacking on many jazz recordings these days.

McBirnie's selection of tunes would appear at first to be somewhat quirky: the opener is What A Friend We Have In Jesus. The performance here though is full of the warmth and gospel feel that this tune so often lacks. The eleven selections include tunes by Thelonious Monk (Monk's Dream and Bye Ya), John Coltrane (Lazy Bird) and Lester Young (Blue Lester). My personal favourite on the recording is the wonderfully languid, stretched-out version of Poinciana.

I highly recommend this recording; the music is joyous and energetic throughout. I'm just itching to play it for some classical flutists I know. I can't wait to see the expressions on their faces when they hear Bill practically turn the flute inside out on Teaneck.

Merlin Williams

Planet Jazz, The International Jazz Review
Volume 7, Summer/Fall 2003
Reviewed by Paul Serralheiro

Bill McBirnie's Nature Boy is an intriguing kettle of fish. It is very clean, articulate bebop. Very clean. Doesn't a charming paradox lie therein?

As a kind of protective "baptism" against the "evil" music to come, the CD opens with a faithful rendition of "What A Friend We Have In Jesus". But it quickly takes a very energetic plunge into the essence of bebop-which can perhaps be described as "drive"-a combination of unrestrained forward motion and imagination. McBirnie displays both on an instrument not frequently found fulfilling a bebop function-and he does so with a rare purity of sound. He can also cradle a ballad quite gently, as evidenced on the reflective "Poinciana" and "Beatrice".

If Nature Boy's wide-ranging tunes (we go from church hymns to Lester Young to Sam Rivers) could be said to have a theme, it may be found in the message expressed in the lyrics of the title song that closes the disc and which lyrics are prominently placed in the liner notes: "The greatest thing you'll ever learn / Is just to love / And be loved in return." That is the idea that opens and closes the CD while in-between McBirnie-along with Mark Eisenman on piano, Steve Wallace on bass and John Sumner on drums-swing back and forth from the peace of the church to the burning spirit of after-hours sessions of bebop-which is, after all, just another kind of religion.


Although I have performed on a wide variety of recordings to date (including my own more recent Extreme Flute projects), I have often been urged (at times admonished) to record an album of straight-ahead jazz with a good strong rhythm section. Well, I finally got around to doing so. However, the group I have selected for this purpose is far more than “a good strong rhythm section”. In fact, it would be better described as “the best oiled swing machine in the country”--that being, The Mark Eisenman Trio.

Mark Eisenman (piano), Steve Wallace (bass) and John Sumner (drums) have been working together for years which entirely explains the ease and consistency with which they are able to set solid and convincing grooves. Indeed, their individual and collective musicianship made this undertaking a relatively facile exercise.

The recording was split over two sessions--one afternoon with The Trio and one morning with Mark Eisenman alone. Both dates were essentially blowing sessions; that is, no rehearsing except to arrange the tunes a bit beforehand and to run down the heads before each take. Needless to say, Mark, Steve and John were so well suited to the task that, at times, it seemed as if all I really had to do was to call the tunes.

So here are the results of one afternoon with The Mark Eisenman Trio followed by one morning with Mark Eisenman alone. The performances, both by The Trio and by Mark, are most certainly a compliment to me. I hope (though with less certainty) that my performances constitute something of a compliment to them. In any case, I would like to thank all of them for delivering such polished workmanship and I would also like to say to you, the listener, that it was a pleasure and an honour to work with such like-minded and accomplished players.

In addition, I would like to point out that the engineer, Inaam Haq of Cherry Beach Sound, demonstrated a sympathetic understanding for the sound required on this recording. His thoughtful and considerate approach is becoming rather uncommon in the trade. Acoustic jazz calls for a measure of sonic, as well as musical, risk-taking that is absent in many of today’s recorded formats where punching, overdubbing, virtual tracking, looping, cutting-and-pasting, fader-riding and so forth are par for the course. Not every engineer is prepared to accept and work with the immediacy and uncertainties associated with acoustic jazz. In that sense, Inaam functioned much like a member of the band.

I genuinely hope that you, the listener, will enjoy the musical, as well as the acoustic, results.

Finally, I would like to dedicate the final track, Nature Boy, to my very own Svetlana because I know how very partial she is to melodies that are both slow in tempo and minor in mode but more importantly because, with her, I have come to a much more profound understanding of the last phrase of the lyric to the tune...

Bill McBirnie

Nature Boy

There was a boy,
a very strange enchanted boy.
They say he wandered very far, very far,
over land and sea.
A little shy and sad of eye,
but very wise was he.

And then one day,
one magic day, he passed my way.
And as we spoke of many things, fools and kings,
this he said to me:
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
is just to love
and be loved in return.”

The quartet tracks (1, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 9) were recorded on Saturday afternoon, August 10, 2002. The duo tracks (2, 5, 7, 10 and 11) were recorded on Sunday morning, August 11, 2002.
Produced by Bill McBirnie
Engineered & Mixed by Inaam Haq at Cherry Beach Sound, Toronto, Canada
Mastered by Andy Khrem of Silverbirch Productions, Toronto, Canada
Photography by Edie Steiner
Graphic Design by Bruce Longman



to write a review

The Globe & Mail

The recording people have been asking for...
Nature Boy, writes flutist Bill McBirnie in his insert notes, is the recording that folks around Toronto have long been asking him to make. So, by popular demand, he has hired a bop-styled rhythm section consisting of pianist Mark Eisenman, bassist Steve Wallace and drummer John Sumner to play some bop-related tunes. McBirnie has always handled bop exceptionally well. You can also hear his years at the conservatory in his sound--a pure, transparent tone at rest, brightening with exertion--but he swings like
someone who grew up with a large collection of Blue Note and Prestige LPs down in the basement. He's entirely idiomatic, but also effortlessly inventive, qualities too often mutually exclusive in jazz these days. Ditto
Eisenman, who's represented by some of his finest playing on record. (Mark Miller)


Really. Nice stuff.
Bill's CD is great. Flute playing and piano playing are especially good. I bought it, and I am glad that I did!


Bill McBirnie plays jazz with an extraordinary flair.
Bill Mc Birnie is an extraoridnary flute player and demonstrates it on this album. The Mark Epstein trio is also first rate. This is a great jazz album.


Reactions to Nature Boy
"Dear Maestro McBirnie...This just blew me away. Great, great playing...Innovative...I have never heard anyone play like this...Great technique and music making.  The scales are so even it sounds like you wrote the Taffanel scale book...Bill, when you read this, I have to take my hat off to you.  This is great playing by any standard." (SIR JAMES GALWAY, Yahoo, Sir James Galway Flute Chat, Message #507, Dec. 25, 2005)

McBirnie has always handled bop exceptionally well. You can also hear his years at the conservatory in his sound--a pure, transparent tone at rest, brightening with exertion--but he swings like someone who grew up with a large collection of Blue Note and Prestige LPs down in the basement.  He's entirely idiomatic, but also effortlessly inventive, qualities too often mutually exclusive in jazz these days. (MARK MILLER, The Globe and Mail)

Bill McBirnie’s quartet and duos on Nature Boy show him as an assured soloist who revels in his instrument rather than being confined by it. He moves comfortably from pure-toned playing to rocking improvisations that tenor players would envy. Even on sentimental material such as “Nature Boy,” he is entirely sincere, with no hint of irony, and the result is heartfelt...It is all beautifully recorded, unclassifiable, and timeless. (MICHAEL STEINMAN, Cadence magazine)

Nature Boy is a CD with many influences. Styles are examined and exploited completely and meticulously. This band doesn’t just handle “trio jazz”; they hand “trio jazz, a la Garland” and “bebop quartet, a la Monk”. An effort is always clearly made to be faithful to the influential source material. However, this does not limit McBirnie or the band. Rather, it provides them a wider compass with which to work. No matter how influenced a given piece is, McBirnie’s unique musical persona is present. (DAVID MIELE, Jazz Improv Magazine)

This is a CD collection that has much style, and creativity. Bill McBirnie is top notch in every solo performance, and Mark Eisenman is one of the finest jazz pianists around. Steve Wallace on bass and John Sumner on drums add their own special touch of class to the songs. This collection is a winner in every way imaginable. Excellent! (LEE PROSSER,

Recorded in two sessions, straight to tape with no overdubs and few takes, Nature Boy gives listeners an honest portrayal of the musicians’ skills and imparts an energy that’s lacking on many jazz recordings...I highly recommend this recording. The music is joyous and energetic throughout. I’m just itching to play it for some classical flutists I know. I can’t wait to see the expressions on their faces when they hear Bill practically turn the flute inside out on Teaneck. (MERLIN WILLIAMS, WholeNote)

Bill McBirnie stands out as a dedicated practitioner rather than a doubling saxophonist. That devotion shows up in the airy sweetness of his sound at ballad tempos and in the remarkable control he can bring to rapid-fire, skittering runs on up tempo, Coltrane-inspired material. His recent CD, Nature Boy, shows his consistency as well as the empathy he enjoys with The Mark Eisenman Trio. (STUART BROOMER, Editor, Coda)

With a full tone, pin-sharp articulation, the occasional witty quote and some jazz licks that pay a compliment to the listener who can catch them (and which sometimes evaporate before they can be fully identified), McBirnie demonstrates that he is an impressive performer by any standard - and all the more so in collaboration with a rhythm section he himself dubs “the best oiled swing machine in the country”. I couldn’t agree more...The quartet really swings and the duets are just beautiful.  The album is a real treasure. (DON SMITH, 'Night Train')

Rev Robert Clark

I've just been listening to some truly inspiring flute playing. If you want a real treat get this album. I've been playing it at my office and the whole staff team has been raving about it.


Worth every penny and more. Thanks again Bill.