Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Christian McBride: The Chameleon

Christian McBride (bass; b. 1972)
Kind Of Brown (Mack Avenue Records)

Most artists try to have their hands in a lot of creative projects. Most of them end up doing only a few of them well (if even slightly good). Then there are those artists that do a lot and leave an indelible mark for futures to come. Christian McBride is obviously the latter. He has worked as sideman, leader, composer, educator and actor (Robert Altman's jazz history film, Kansas City). He has performed with a list of diverse artists including Sting, ?uestlove (The Roots), George Duke, Uri Caine, Chaka Khan, Chick Corea, Bobby Watson, Joshua Redman and Wynton Marsalis just to name a few. Christian McBride's bass influences and mentors are among the most revered and acknowledge in jazz--Paul Chambers who worked with Coltrane and Miles as well as Ray Brown.

The Philadelphia native performed and toured with numerous jazz contemporaries including a long stint with one of my favourite pianist, Benny Green. With eight albums as leader, Christian McBride has shown the versatility to move from straight ahead bop to funky pop rhythms at the turn of the switch.He trained on both electric and acoustic bass (most recently sticking to the latter) which he has used on most of his early to middle albums. This has in turn made him an in-demand musician at the moment. But I believe his compositional skills may sometimes get overlooked. The majority of each of his releases consist of self-penned material with sparse but completely reimagined covers/standards included.

As leader, Christian McBride allows his band members to spread out and fly within the boundaries of the composition. This usually means things will almost always be a swingin' affair. But he can also bring the proceedings to a gentle calm. This is nowhere more evident than on the recent release Kind Of Brown (Mack Avenue Records). Christian McBride again shows the diversity and ingenuity of his musicianship, writing and leadership as he leads his most consistent band in years through a solid set of originals and two covers to maximum effect. Kind Of Brown moves from the funky opener, "Brother Mister" through to the gospel-tinged "Used 'Ta Could" and the post bop of "Stick & Move" and closing with the lovely "Where Are You?".

Kind Of Brown is the kind of record you need from one the leading and hardest working bassists on the jazz scene today. A real treat for new jazz ears and a possible return to form for longtime Christian McBride fans. Enjoy...

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