Posted on 8/18/2009at 5:35 PM
As I sit here on a ferry in the Canary Islands going from Terenife to Las Palmas, I’ve decided that it’s utterly redundant and useless to keep apologizing for taking so long to write new blog entires. Most of you who even bother reading these things realize that I’m not as prolific as I once was when “blogging” wasn’t even called that, but I always try to make the entries informative and fun.

So, here goes…

I had every intention on writing a new entry on May 2nd – the day after the final Five Peace Band concert in Burlington, VT. What a tour. What an experience. Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Kenny Garrett, Brian Blade and Vinnie Colaiuta gave me some of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had as a professional musician. At the risk of again sounding redundant (see McBride Diaries, Vol. 32), I have to say that Chick and John are true leaders and visionaries who are all-inclusive in their vision. They allowed us to fly. They encourage their musicians to push them, mess with them, allow you to try to kick their behinds – if you even DARE try! ☺ Because of this democracy, you then realize it’s your responsiblility as the musician to make it work. A lot of brilliant bandleaders and visionaries have their concept already pre-conceived from beginning to end. That’s fine, but I find that in those situations, it almost doesn’t matter who you have playing in the band, because you already have it set in your mind exactly how you want it (or need it) to sound, and all you have to do is make the musicians do exactly what you tell them to. If you’re working with a group other than a jazz group, that’s totally cool, but in a jazz group, the whole notion of bringing your own thing to the table and making it all work with everyone else’s thing, is what makes jazz so special in the first place.

(Just to let you know, this is one of the rockiest, bumpiest, scariest rides I’ve ever been on. This ferry is not cool!)

Thank God we’re finally off this ferry. As I was saying….

I understand that I’ll be playing with Chick again in 2010. Not with the Five Peace Band, but playing with Chick in any situation is great. He is without question one of my greatest teachers – and friends – in the business. As for John, I still can’t believe I spent so much time making music with this legend over the last year. I can only hope he calls me again for something else in the future.

Once again, my penchant for not letting the great taste of a tour linger on my palette for a while flared again as I had less than 48 hours to prepare for a live recording with my man James Carter at the Blue Note in New York. This was a fun band – JC, Adam Rogers, John Medeski and Joey Baron. This was my first time playing with Joey and John. It was a lot of fun to play with Joey. What a swingin’ cat. James recorded a whole range of things from Sun Ra to Larry Young to Django Reinhart. I believe the CD will be released sometime in September. Lookout for that one. James, of course, played all the saxophone, and I do mean ALL the saxophone! Watching and listening to him play, all you can really say is, “You gotta be kidding me!” What an incredible player.

Shortly after that, I interviewed one of my favorite partners-in-fun, Chris Botti, for Jazz House Kids’ “Inside The Jazz Note” series. Whenever Chris and I get together, you can rest assure there are going to be a lot of laughs. We played a couple of duets, as well. I mentioned this a couple of years ago, but I hope Chris’s fans realize that under all his “cuteness” is a great musician.

Speaking of Chris, I reconnected with my old boss, Gordon Mathew Sumner – aka Sting. Sting did a very special performance with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as part of the CSO’s “Corporate Night”. Sting performed orchestral versions of his classic hits. Dave Hartley (who also wonderfully conducted), Vince Mendoza, Guy Barker and none other than the great Johnny Mandel did the arranging honors for the orchestra. Songs ranged from “Russians”, “A Thousand Years”, “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” to “My One And Only Love”, “Moon Over Bourbon Street” to “Every Breath You Take”. An amzing night. I can only hope that Sting does more of these types of concerts. It was a great, great night being reunited with Sting and the gang – Vinnie Colaiuta (who was also still recouperatiing from the “Five Peace Band” tour), Dominic Miller and David Sancious. Not surprisingly, Sting’s music lends itself quite well to symphonic interpretations. Maybe a recording could be in the works? (Just putting it out there, Sting. No pressure, man…)

The day after the concert, Sting was gracious in contributing to my “Conversations with Christian” project. We recorded “Consider Me Gone” from his first solo album, “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”. Sting played some Kenny Burrell-style guitar along with his smoky vocals. We also spoke on camera for about 30 minutes just rapping about music and bass – Jaco, Ray Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Miles, Chick, Herbie….it was great. Can’t wait until you see and hear it. Don’t know when it will be released, but stay tuned.

After swirling in the Sting vortex again, I did a couple of hip recording sessions back-to-back with two hip singers (a gross understatement) - Angelique Kidjo and Dee Dee Bridgewater. It’s amazing how much Angelique and I have worked together in the last few months. First, it was the studio version of my “Conversations” project, then my radio show, now it’s her recording. If you know Angelique, there’s no need for me to tell you that it’s a project full of fire. She’s got so much energy. If you aren’t ready, Angelique will run over you. Definitely my kind of artist!

Dee Dee’s new project is a tribute to Billie Holiday. Most of the time, when vocalists pay tribute to Lady Day, it usually goes the melancholy ballad route, but she went the hard-swinging route, and as Ray Brown would have said, Dee Dee had us “swingin’ like dogs.” James Carter, Edsel Gomez and my right-hand studio partner, Lewis Nash did the honors. It’s always a highlight working with Dee Dee. She’s full out all the time.

After working with Angelique and Dee Dee back-to-back, I had to heal all the bruises they put on my behind from kicking it so much! How about a ballad session, please?

Ever since Dee Dee’s session, I’ve been out here on the road with “Inside Straight”. More on that coming up….

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