Nov 23, 2021
There is no doubt that Christian McBride is one of the most versatile musicians on the music scene today. His artistry has been documented in recordings and performances with the widest possible range of musicians in the most varied settings and genres one might imagine. His collaborations have been as diverse as duets with the revered classical bassist Edgar Meyer and avant-garde composer and violinist Laurie Anderson; performances with iconic artists like Sting and James Brown; ensembles with his fellow native Philadelphian, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, of The Roots; not to mention a host of jazz masters from Sonny Rollins and Freddie Hubbard to Pat Metheny and the late Chick Corea. Add to that his work as broadcaster, educator, advocate and steward of New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Jazz Aspen Snowmass, and the Newport Jazz Festival, and you still are just beginning to scratch the surface of his talent and accomplishments.
McBride leads a plethora of ensembles, from his Trio and Big Band to the Situation and New Jawn. My favorite is his quintet known as Inside Straight, featuring drummer Carl Allen, saxophonist Steve Wilson, pianist Eric Reed (who subsequently was replaced by Peter Martin) and vibraphonist Warren Wolf. Together for almost fifteen years, the group’s vast talents are well displayed on the new release on Mack Avenue Records, Live at the Village Vanguard. Recorded during a lengthy run of shows in 2014, the album features compositions by three of the five members, all allowing the band to swing hard. As Christian says in our conversation, he wanted a band that was “Vanguard Ready,” and he seems to have hit the mark once again.
When I spoke with McBride, he had just finished performing his large ensemble work "The Movement, Revisited," a four-movement suite dedicated to four of the major figures of the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at NJPAC. We discussed the audience response to the piece, his memories of his first show at the Village Vanguard as an audience member and a performer, and of his friend ship with the late George Wein. We also hear about his plans for the coming months, including a live recording at the Vanguard by the New Jawn, his group featuring Marcus Strickland (saxophone), Josh Evans (trumpet) and Nasheet Watts (drums).
Musical selections in Podcast 863 include “Shade of the Cedar Tree” (which McBride jokingly calls his “hit”) by Inside Straight, and “Brother Malcom,” a track from The Movement, Revisited which is also featured on a fund raising album to benefit the Jazz Foundation of America’s Musicians’ Emergency Relief Fund. That album, entitled Relief, is a collaborative work by a consortium of major jazz labels – Concord Music Group, Mack Avenue Music Group, Nonesuch Records, Universal Music Group’s Verve Label Group and Blue Note Records, and Warner Music Group – and their recording artists and can be purchased here.
Christian McBride and Inside Straight will be performing at the Village Vanguard in New York from November 30 to December 5, and Christian McBride’s New Jawn will appear there December 7 to 12. Tickets may be purchased here.