03 Light Through DarkLight Through Dark
Bill Gilliam; Bill McBirnie; Eugene Martynec
Independent (gilliammcbirniemartynec.bandcamp.com/releases)

It’s clear from the first of the seven tracks of Light Through Dark that the Toronto trio of pianist Bill Gilliam, flutist Bill McBirnie and Eugene Martynec on electroacoustics possesses big ears and hearts. Each, however, has different roots. One of the city’s top jazz and Latin flute specialists, McBirnie is renowned for his outstanding technique as much as for exceptional improvising chops in bebop, swing and Latin idioms. Gilliam has been active in town since the 1980s as a composer and pianist exploring in his words the “boundaries between new music, improvisation, electroacoustic music and contemporary jazz.” Martynec on the other hand has been on the scene as guitarist and record producer for even longer. He’s mostly focused today on performing live interactive electroacoustic music with other improvisers. Both Gilliam and Martynec are core members of the Toronto Improvisers Orchestra.

The moody and languid opener Time Floats – Japanese Suite, Part 1 centres on McBirnie’s low metal alto flute melodies in which he tastefully introduces shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) nuances into its warm breathy vibrato. Martynec chooses harp, koto and mbira-sounding timbres to weave around the flute throughline, while Gilliam complements with seamlessly effective keyboard work. 

The other two parts of the Japanese Suite, Icy Still and Crane Flight, continue the shakuhachi theme and sonic imagery. Collectively the trio’s music is inventive, technically adroit and elegant at the same time. Most of all, we can hear their “mutual fascination with the mystery of creating entirely spontaneous music,” as aptly stated in the liner notes.

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