Fluid and melodic--yet a hard swinger. This is but a partial description of the accomplished musicianship of Bill McBirnie, one of Canada’s finest flutists.
At an early stage in his studies, Bill became restless with the piano and announced to his parents that he wanted to play the flute--without knowing precisely what a flute was. However, this capricious request was soon followed by an uncommon devotion to the instrument.
Bill’s ability as a classical performer earned him a place in the St. Catharines Symphony Orchestra throughout his years in high school and, when he was only sixteen, a chair with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. While still in his early years of high school, he also enjoyed the privilege of studying with the very distinguished Canadian flutist and composer, Robert Aitken, who actively encouraged him to pursue a career in classical performance.
At the same time, Bill’s interest in jazz was being fostered in a family ensemble known as "The McBirnie Jazz Quartet Plus One", a group that participated from time to time in jam sessions at the Colored Musicians' Union Club in Buffalo, New York, not far from his home town of Port Colborne, Ontario. Bill's interest in improvisatory idioms was augmented during his adolescence in no small measure through the encouragement he received from occasional invitations to sit in with the likes of Herbie Mann, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, James Moody and others.
After such broad musical exposure, it is hardly surprising that his present facility is so decidedly comprehensive; be-bop, swing, Latin, funk, pop and avant garde--all are within the scope of his unusual competence. Indeed, Bill can place himself meaningfully in virtually any musical context.
Although he pursued studies in business (in the course of which he obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree and, ultimately, a professional accounting designation), his proficiency in that quite unrelated discipline has never hindered his activities as a flutist in a wide variety of settings. His work runs the gamut from live performances (including those with his own jazz quartets and duos) to radio broadcasts and a miscellany of recording sessions.
More recently, he has been performing in a variety of prominent club and festival venues. As well, Bill has recorded with eminent artists such as Junior Mance, Memo Acevedo, Irakere, Brenda Carol and Da including his own recorded flute projects under the banner, EXTREME FLUTE. His most recent EXTREME FLUTE project entitled, "Scratch It!", was entirely self-produced and presents him in a extraordinarily broad range of idioms. He newest release is a straight-ahead jazz recording entitled, "Nature Boy", in which he is teamed up with the illustrious Mark Eisenman Trio.
In an instructional vein, Bill conducts clinics with emphasis on performing in non-classical contexts. He is also a featured woodwind columnist in the Canadian Musician magazine.
Bill's facility on the entire family of flutes and piccolo is exceptional--pure, fresh, strong, and fluid. In performance, he exhibits an sensibility and a conviction that is genuinely compelling. Accordingly, it is little wonder that, over the years, his workmanship has earned him the respect and admiration of listeners and critics alike including more recently being voted Flutist of the Year by the Jazz Report awards.