Jun 30, 2009
It's a real delight to welcome Christan McBride back into acoustic jazz. I've been a fan of the great bassist since his debut as a leader in 1994. Since then, he has been more than a little busy, lending his extensive talents to varying projects and combos, including the R&B tribute A Family Affair and the sprawling 3 CD set Live At Tonic, which found McBride adding violin, turntable and perhaps the kitchen sink to his basic group on long, meandering jams.
Kind of Brown (a tip of the cap to his mentor Ray Brown) finds McBride back on his acoustic bass, playing as part of a quintet called Inside Straight. It's a winning hand, primarily due to the high quality of his collaborators and seven strong McBride compositions.
Drummer Carl Allen teams seemlessly with bassist McBride, creating a rhythm section that can keep the time with the best, but doesn't hesitate to step out and take control as well. Listen to McBride's solo on "Rainbow Wheel" to see that he can play the upright bass with the best.
Saxophonist Steve Wilson lends a warm sound to tracks like "Starbeam" and really stretches out on Freddie Hubbard's "Theme for Kareem". I'm a huge vibes fan, so its great to see McBride incorporating Warren Wolf, Jr. into the band. He contributes a lightning solo to "Kareem", and a tasteful run on pianist Eric Scott Reed's composition "Pursuit of Peace". The lilting "Uncle James" shows that Wilson and Wolf and slow it down as well, contributing tasty sounds to the piece.
McBride was wise to tap Reed for his pianist bench. A veteran of Wynton Marsalis and Freddie Hubbard's bands, he is a great foil for McBride, weaving in and around the bass player here and there.
In short, Kind of Brown is the kind of CD that reminds us why we like acoustic jazz - its short on bombast, long on style and substance. With Inside Straight, Christian McBride has reclaimed his position as one of our finest upright bass players.