Bassist McBride doubles up for Aspen show
July 20, 2005
Christian McBride is commonly referred to as the premier jazz bassist of his generation. It’s a title he has surely earned; the 33-year-old Philadelphia native has appeared on literally hundreds of records, by the likes of jazz icons Milt Jackson and Abbey Lincoln, McCoy Tyner and McBride’s idol, the late Ray Brown. And to the listeners who see McBride’s 8 p.m. show tonight at Belly Up, “jazz bassist” will seem a suitable description.But then there is the late show.
Tonight’s 11 p.m. show is billed as the Christian McBride Band. The combo features the same players as the early set: pianist Geoffrey Keezer, drummer Terreon Gully and saxophonist Ron Blake joining McBride. But the special guest for the late show is DJ Logic – a turntablist, and a sure sign that the boundaries will be expanded beyond acoustic jazz. McBride will move between electric and acoustic basses; Keezer will likely spend more time at his electric keyboards than piano.McBride says that Jazz Aspen, which booked tonight’s shows as part of the JAS Academy Summer Sessions concert series, made the request for two different sorts of shows. The first, according to McBride, was for “the older folks, who couldn’t handle too much volume.” It was, he added, “the first time he was asked to do a ‘dinner show.'”The late show is more typical of the direction McBride has taken in recent years. After working as a sideman with the likes of Bobby Watson and Freddie Hubbard, McBride broke out on his own with 1994 debut CD “Gettin’ to It,” and the follow-up “Number Two Express.” It was with 1998’s “A Family Affair” that McBride broke from strictly acoustic bass-playing, and spread into r & b grooves and bass guitar. He has gone further down that road with the fusion-style albums “Sci-Fi,” and 2003’s “Vertical Vision,” which features the current lineup of McBride’s group.
“I’ve always thought of my band as a hybrid band,” said McBride, who played electric bass first, but has had more training on the acoustic instrument. “You get a little bit of everything. I like to think that people can heard the band and not know what to call it.”The band’s next release should show McBride and company breaking into even deeper electric territory. The live album, recorded in January at the New York City club Tonic, is set for release this coming January on the Ropedaope label, whose eclectic and progressive roster includes Afrobeat ensemble Antibalas and sacred steel gospel act the Campbell Brothers. The McBride Band’s CD, as yet untitled, features contributions from guitarists Eric Krasno, of groove band Soulive, and Charlie Hunter; DJ Logic; Scratch, the beat-boxer from the Roots; and violinist Jenny Scheinman, forward-thinkers all.”It sounds like ‘Vertical Vision’ – amped up,” said McBride, who has been in Snowmass Village, serving as artistic director of Jazz Aspen’s JAS Academy Summer Sessions educational program.
“It’s all part of the growth process. As you mature, you’re influenced by other sounds. And your situation in everyday life bleeds into the music and impels your artistic vision.”So exactly what sounds have been steering McBride of late? He comes up blank for a moment, before ticking off a list of Afro-Cuban musicians. “Part of me feels a little guilty because I haven’t had time to listen to any music other than what I’m performing,” McBride, who does dates with pianist Chick Corea next month and is part of an extensive Pat Metheny Trio tour in the fall, said.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com