The format of flute, Hammond B3, and drums is not very common at all any more, in fact was in style, and not very prolifically so, only for a short while in the old Kudu / CTI / Blue Note days (60s, 70s), but it's a great mode for flute because the instrument is not as easily overwhelmed there as it can be in other configurations, trampled upon by accompanying amplified instruments. More, as is always the case with trios, the elbow room provided for improv and highlights is extensive, and McBirnie steps aside plenty of times for his bandmates to trot their chops. So accomplished is the flautist himself, in fact, that no less a luminary than Sir James Galway (you used to know him as jes' plain ol' 'James Galway' until he got kicked upstairs socially) has highly complimented the man's technique in unreserved terms.
More than once, though, I was surprised by Bernie Senensky's organ handling. In the lead cut, Cole Porter's So in Love, I swore up and down there was a guitar present, but, looking through the liner notes, could find none credited. Baffled, I turned up the volume and, sure as hell, the organist was invoking some kind of maneuver I've never heard before, playing with an inflection wherein the envelope took on the timbre of damped chords and notes. Uncanny! Yet, with McBirnie's energy and élan, I easily understood why Senensky wanted to color things that way, putting a subtle extra little zing into the affair.
My favorite Find Your Place cut is Yes Indeed with its Feelin' Groovy intro and great dueting organ and flute interplay. This cut's also where drummer Anthony Michelli gets to open up for the first time, improving upon what had been a boppy accompaniment up to that point. Then the take on the Beatles' raucous Oh! Darling pacifies the famed rave-up into shuffle mode, removing the pounce and racousness so that one can don slippers and light a pipe to it as the sun sets…ah, but the cover of Monk's Rhythm-A-Ning sees re-amplification, with McBirnie taking off for the skies, flying all over the place before trading off spots with Senensky, drums punctuating the in-betweens. Flute music, I needn't remind the erudite listener, has never been abundant and I suspect never will be, more's the pity, so should you wish to re-acquaint with the mode, you can hardly do better than Bill McBirnie, a gent who will prompt you to trace back to Hubert Laws, Yusef Lateef, David Newton, Dave Valentin, Tim Weissberg, and the too few wielders of the silvery wand. If your collection of sides is anything like mine, you'll be glad you did.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles