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Published: 2013/10/30
by Ron Hart

Christian McBride Heads Out

For nearly 20 years, Christian McBride has been renowned as one of American jazz’s most gifted bassists. And in 2013, he’s reigning supreme with not one but two new albums:People Music with his urban bop outfit Inside Straight and Out Here, his very first LP with a trio rounded out by pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. McBride, who also teaches at his wife’s educational facility in Montclair, NJ called Jazz House Kids, recently took some time out of preparations for his Thanksgiving holiday tour of the Netherlands to speak with Jambands about the new albums and how they factor into a never-ending highlight reel of a career.

The first time I ever heard you play was on Diana Krall’s 1997 album Love Scenes. What do you remember most about recording with Diana and what is your fondest memory of those sessions?

I’ve played on quite a few of Diana’s recordings. This is my favorite out of all of them. It’s bare bones. It’s pure music. Just piano/vocals, bass and guitar. I always thought Diana shined in this instrumentation. This session happened just as her career was about to explode. Just after the release of this CD, she practically became a household name. I was glad to be a part of it.

Do you still stay in touch with Diana? Are you a fan of her husband, Elvis Costello?

I don’t keep in touch with Diana quite as much as I used to. We’re both very busy, plus she has two young children she and Elvis are raising. Elvis is a very cool guy. I certainly knew who Elvis and the Attractions were as a kid, but I didn’t really get around to listening to a lot of their records. I was more of a soul/R&B guy. But when I finally saw him live with the Mingus Big Band sometime in the 90’s, I became a fan.

Elvis just worked with your pal ?uestlove on his collaboration with The Roots for Blue Note, Wise Up Ghost. Have the two of you been in touch since doing The Philadelphia Experiment? How was Ahmir as a partner in a rhythm section?

Ahmir is exactly how you would think he would be in a rhythm section: Funky. We recorded together with Joe Jackson on his most recent recording, The Duke. We also played some live shows with Booker T. Jones and also the few Philly Experiment live shows. Yes, we’re always in touch.

Is another hip-hop related project in your future plans? Would you consider your upcoming project with DJ Logic to be a hip-hop thing or something different? I’d love to hear more about your new group A Christian McBride Situation.

I’m dying to record A Christian McBride Situation! If things go as planned, I’ll get into the studio with this band (DJ Logic, Patrice Rushen, Jahi Sundance, Alyson Williams and Ron Blake) sometime at the end of 2014. Back in 2004, I think it was ’04, I was playing a gig with my band at the Monterey Jazz Festival. About a week before the gig, two of the guys had to back out due to family issues. That only left me and Ron Blake. I was stuck for a band. My road manager said, “It looks like we have a Christian McBride situation.” That’s where the name came from. Everyone I called to sub was unavailable, so as they say, necessity is the mother of invention – I looked at the festival schedule to see what musicians were performing and I picked DJ Logic and Patrice Rushen. Since we had no time to rehearse, we went onstage and did a completely improvised set. Much to my surprise, everyone liked it. After that, I decided to keep the band together as much as I could and do a few gigs here and there. When you freestyle completely, there’s going to be some serious peaks and valleys. You have to have enough courage to take the ride. This band has the courage. I can’t wait to record with them.

As a child of the 70s and 80s, how much did hip-hop factor into your music education growing up?

At age 41, I’m pretty much the same age as hip-hop, so it didn’t play a part of my education, we grew up together. I spent my teenage years intensely studying jazz albums, so I was very aware of exactly which jazz records hip-hop artists sampled. I pretty much jumped off the hip-hop train in the late 80’s/early 90’s when 2 Live Crew and NWA started to take over the minds of the younger generation. When Frankie Smith, The Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, and later on, Queen Latifah, Public Enemy, MC Lyte, EPMD and A Tribe Called Quest were doing their thing, I was in. But after studying and immersing myself in the spirituality of John Coltrane and Duke Ellington, this oncoming tsunami called “gangsta rap” did nothing for me.

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