We’ve all got our own opinions when it comes to what music is good or bad, but real music will always have one key thing in common; it doesn’t fit into the categories that critics like myself invent for it. There’s never been an icon in pop music that started a trend or set up a generation of artists to come after them that joined a scene or a sound. They’re the inventors, the innovators, the people who push the needle of pop culture forward with their every action. Truly authentic music exists in the space between utopian harmony and unending chaos, and that’s exactly where I would place Bill McBirnie and Bernie Senensky’s The Silent Wish, a brand new full length album that is almost guaranteed to rekindle your love of good, solid jazz. Stone cold structurally and warmed by the flavorful contributions of both McBirnie and Senensky, this album is what I mean when I talk about raw music that can transcend trends and personal taste. You know it when you hear it.
There’s an attitude in The Silent Wish that I didn’t find in any of Bill McBirnie’s rivals’ work, or at least none that has been committed to record. With Bernie Senensky along for the ride, the pair rip through one layer of broken melodies after another and leave a trail of beautiful harmoniousness in their wake. Every time I started to anticipate an oncoming wall, McBirnie swooped in with a new and unexpected twist that kept the songs moving with a furious urgency. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that it reminded me of listening to Beethoven; it’s intuitively different than anything else, but there’s a human familiarity to it that satiates some deep dark desire burning within me. How else could you interpret the strut of “Recado Bossa Nova” juxtaposed with the somber smile of “Blue Bossa”? We could take it for its surface value (indulgent exoticism), or we could embrace a much more fascinating notion – that this is music at its most psychologically (and sonically) stimulating.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to be an expert on music or the fine arts to recognize how big a splash The Silent Wish is going to make for the music it celebrates with such vibrancy. Experimentalism and postmodernity have been the two big stories in all popular music in 2018, and I think that Bill McBirnie and Bernie Senensky’s take on this modern movement is quite possibly the most poignant and easy to listen to – a legitimately rare combination. Jazz is going to need a lot more characters in the vein of these two if it is to survive on the next decade’s charts, but The Silent Wish definitely eases my concerns for the time being. If you haven’t already heard McBirnie’s work before, I suggest checking out some of his back catalogue in addition to this latest addition just to get a grasp of how much his style has developed and grown in the last decade. It’s really something, and I think this is his very best album yet.