Sep 19, 2020
We are almost three-quarters of the way through the dumpster-fire that has been 2020, and Christian McBride has done more than his share to try to keep our minds on new music. No less than three of the top releases of this troubled year have his imprint, with a new release coming out this week.
Early in the year we finally got the long-awaited recording of his multi-part suite The Movement Revisisted: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons, dropping just as the battle of racial justice was once again hitting the headlines. This summer saw the 25th anniversary of the release of Joshua Redman's first album, celebrated by reuniting Redman, McBride, Brad Mehldau and Brian Blade for a new album RoundAgain.
For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver (Mack Avenue Records) is a big Band album that pays homage to the famous recordings organist Jimmy Smith and guitarist Wes Montgomery made in the mid-Sixties. Those albums were both quartet and Big Band sessions, arranged and led by Oliver Nelson. McBride has brought together his award-winning Big Band again, and put together a crack quartet to front it - himself on bass, Mark Whitfield on guitar, long-time drummer Quincy Phillips and -finally - organist Joey DeFrancesco. McBride and DeFrancesco are running buddies from their school days in Philadelphia, bur For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver marks the first time they have made an album-length collaboration.
Whether the Big Band is killing it on a bluesy "Night Train" or a stomping "Milestones," or the quartet is playing originals like Joey D's "Don Is" or a redo of Whitfield's "Medgar Evans Blues," there is plenty of the funky sound that Smith and Montgomery made to the max 55 years ago. DeFrancesco is in particularly good form, continuing his run of top-notch work over the past few years.
Podcast 766 is my conversation with the always affable McBride, as we talk about the three recordings that came out this year, his upcoming collaboration with funk legend Bootsy Collins, and the tough decisions he has had to make regarding the Newport Jazz Festival and NJPac, where he serves as Jazz Advisor. Musical selections include "Road Song" and "Night Train" from For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver, "Rumble in the Jungle" from The Movement Revisisted, and his composition "Floppy Diss" from RoundAgain.