Posted on 8/30/2003at 3:16 PM
When the CMB returned home from Germany, we went right into the Regatta Bar in Boston for a three night engagement. It was so good to be back in the USA. The Boston shows were very good. My manager's kids and their friends sold our merchandise. They were so cute, it's no wonder we sold so many CD's, caps and t-shirts!

Our return to the USA quickly turned sour when we got back to New York City. When the CMB left New York on February 22nd, there was a little bit of talk about a war, but Bush, Cheney, and Powell told us that they would give Iraq "more time," so there probably wouldn't have to be a war. As we prepared to start our two night engagement at Joe's Pub in the East Village on March 19th, it was official - the war was on. I was very, very angry. I was angry for many reasons, as I still am. But I don't want to get too much into my political rap because this is about the CMB tour stories, but I will say this - I believe Michael Moore is a brilliant man!

Alas, there were other events that occured in New York City while we were in Europe that totally caught us off guard and put a massive cloud over the town. You're now about to discover why I now call New York "The Big Rotten Apple." Dig what happened while we were gone.....

1. Subway/Bus fare was raised to $2

2. N.Y.City and State tax was raised to 8 3/4%

3. 5 Firehouses had been closed by the city.

4. Clothing under $100 was now taxable.

5. Parking rules were now in effect on SUNDAYS.

6. 25c would now get you only 10 minutes on a parking meter.

7. NO MORE SMOKING! (This one hurt me bad. I'm a cigar connoiseur, you know...)

I couldn't believe what I was hearing with all of these new laws and rules in New York. The most amazing part to me was that Mayor Bloomberg seemed to be quite indignant about his rulings. "Shut up and take it" was the vibe the city got from him.

2005, hurry up, please! (I'm SURELY getting hacked now! Ha-Ha!)

Needless to say, the vibe was pretty dark and grim both nights at Joe's, but the music - as it always does - carried us through. I did, however, wonder why Joe's Pub had us starting both shows on both nights at 7:30. Absolutely NO ONE on this planet goes to a club at 7:30!!! ESPECIALLY in New York City!!! It was hilarious how drastic the crowds changed for the 9:30 show. We declared our 7:30 shows as "open rehearsals"! A few days later, I marched in an anti-war rally that started in Times Square and ended in Washington Square Park. What a heavy couple of days in NYC.

As we left New York, I saw one of my longtime dreams unfold before my very eyes - I was about to board my tour bus! Ever since I became a band leader, I always wanted to travel by bus. I sincerely dislike flying now. Too much hassle. And believe me, it was a hassle long before 9/11. As excited as I was about boarding our bus, we would get tested quickly. Our first gig after NYC was the Dakota Bar & Grill in St.Paul, MN. You know what that meant, right??? S-N-O-W!!!

I actually didn't mind the snow. As long as our driver was cool, we were cool. The Dakota Bar & Grill is a favorite among touring jazz musicians. It's surely one of my favorites. The boss, Lowell Pickett, is one of the good guys. Although, if you remember, we got a couple of nasty messages from some people on the "Say It Loud" page after they claimed we "started late" one of those nights. For the record, Mr.Pickett hates trifling stragglers who come to a 7pm show at 7:45, so he figures (correctly, I might add!) that if he advertises a 7pm show, most people will be there by 7:15 or 7:30. But, of course, the only problem is that some people actually DO show up on time, so they have to wait. So for those of you who thought we started late, sorry. One guy even got mad at me for pushing my hats and t-shirts too much. He said I needed to learn "audience relations"!! Now, THAT'S FUNNY!!! If no one BOUGHT the hats, then I would need to learn audience relations, don't you think? I gotta tell ya, we love the crowds at the Dakota. We love playing there. We certainly had fun this trip. Geoffrey's parents drove up from Eau Claire, WI, too.

After St.Paul, we took the bus to Houghton, MI to play at Michigan Tech University. The snow was unbelieveable. The streets were solid white! We had a pretty modest crowd, but they dug it. Thanks, Houghton. We had fun.

After Houghton, we took the bus to "our kinda town", Chicago! We played at the Green Dolphin. What a cool place. I'd never played there before, but we LOVED it. The place was packed. I thought maybe the crowd was coming to see someone else. Chicago showered us with great, great vibes. Thanks, Chi-town. We can't wait to see you again. I tell you another reason why the tour bus was right on time - the Green Dolphin has no dressing rooms! We changed in the bus!

After Chicago, we darted back east to play a show at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, NJ opening for the lovely Miss Dee Dee Bridgewater. I was looking forward to this show because I've played there quite a few times, and the crowds are always fired up. Dee Dee and I both got quite nervous, however, as we arrived at the theater and saw that all of the brochures read, "March 31 - Dee Dee Bridgewater with the Christian McBride Trio....."


Answer me something, folks - WHY, WHY, WHY do some promoters have such a hard time just simply READING THE CONTRACT???????? Apparently, they didn't read my contract OR Dee Dee's!

I'm not sounding bitter yet, am I?? :-)

Anyway, whatever the crowd thought they were getting, they got it good. We played one of our best shows on the tour, then Dee Dee came on, and as James Brown would say, "Did it to DEATH". It was a fun night.

After Princeton, we took the bus down to arguably THE most soulful club in the country, Blues Alley in Washington D.C. I'm telling you the truth, only soulful folks come to Blues Alley, and if they don't have soul when they come in there, the other people GIVE them some! Blues Alley is one of those places where I feel completely at home. They don't care WHAT kind of music you play, as long as it's sincere. They never complain about be-bop vs. fusion, loud vs. soft, acoustic vs. electric. They don't have time for such petty arguments. All they care about is sincerety! As in "Do you mean what you play?" That's why I love Blues Alley.

After DC, we took the bus back to the midwest and played at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, MI. Yes, we ran into plenty more snow on the trip. We had fun on that show. Just like Houghton, we had a modest, but very appreciative audience. Thanks, CMU. We had fun.

The following night, we drove to Kalamazoo to play Western Michigan University. That definitely was a lot of fun. The school treated us wonderfully. Although, I must admit, I was ready to get out of the midwest and all that doggone snow! After Kalamazoo, I got a little teary-eyed because I knew it was time to say good-bye to the bus. We would be flying our next few shows. I hugged Mr.Bus goodbye as we drove overnight to Chicago to hop on a plane for Seattle.

Jazz Alley in Seattle is also a huge favorite of ours. What great vibes that place has. Not to mention Seattle is a very, very hip city. I love going there. I've also had plenty of funny moments in Jazz Alley. I still remember when Mark Whitfield and I did a double bill there in 1997. I made Mark come up on stage during my set so I could sing James Brown's "Please, Please, Please!". I had Rob Perry, the house manager, come up and put a cape on me!!! Yes, I know, I'm crazy. Hey, give me some credit - I've retired that whole James Brown schtick. (I'm now on Frank Sinatra!!) We had pretty big crowds for our two nights there. Thanks, Seattle, for supporting "Vertical Vision" so much. We can't wait to get back there. The remodeling inside the club looks tremendous, too!

After Seattle, we went the Taj Mahal of all jazz clubs. I really don't need to say what club that is, do I? Good, because I can't possibly say anymore great things about that club that hasn't been said already. Remember what I said about Blues Alley in DC? Well, take all of that and multiply it by 10, and you'll get Yoshi's in Oakland. Yoshi's, you know you're my other home! You've always unconditionally supported good music. Keep on doin' it!

After Yoshi's, we stopped over in Santa Cruz to play at the Kuumbwa center. Kuumbwa is another one of those great places on the west coast circuit. If you ever tour the west coast and don't play Kuumbwa, you really will feel like your tour isn't complete. We had a fun, fun night there.

One of the down sides of playing in Northern California is that everyone is so tremendously creative, open, warm and giving, it kind of spoils it for bands who are going to play somewhere else afterwards. With that being said, I didn't have high hopes for L.A.!! :-)

OK, wait a minute LA, don't get mad at me. Please hear me out.....

We went to play Catalina's Bar & Grill in Hollywood. Now, listen, I've played at Catalina's with some high-profile cats - Pat Metheny, Joshua Redman, George Duke, Benny Green, etc, and the crowds have ALWAYS been light at least one or two nights. By far, the Vertical Vision tour's BEST multi-night engagement was in LA!! Hollywood completely messed me up in the best way possible. People came out every single night, and get this - we sold out of t-shirts and HATS! I'm not sure if I've ever felt that kind of love from the Hollywood gang before. Thank you, thank you, thank you, LA. I really didn't want to leave. You made me feel like I was home. I guess I was, huh?

After LA, we "officially" ended the "Vertical Vision" tour in one of the classiest and most elegant - yet one of the most down and soulful places in the country - The Bistro at Grand Central in St. Louis,, MO. The Bistro has always baffled me - the place is so grand and so "tres chic" (heh-heh), but the people who come in there are so down home and "right on." I LOVE that! It was a great way to end the tour. Terreon's family - who live in East St. Louis - cooked us some soul food - ribs, chicken, beef stew, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, cornbread, collard greens, candied yams, and everythang! (No, that's not a typo! Get hip, will ya?) In honor of one of St. Louis's favorite sons, Redd Foxx, I even told a couple of his jokes onstage! (Don't worry, mom. I told the R rated ones, not the X rated ones!)

After a two-week break, the CMB got together for a show In Brooklyn, NY at a new joint in Park Slope called "The Southpaw". Andy Hurwitz, my boy from Rope-A-Dope records promoted the show. I really hope we get to play there again. This show marked the "next stage" of the CMB's journey. As this band progresses, it's becoming increasingly evident that the "jazz" circuit - in the strict sense - may not be condusive for us. Strict jazz establishments just wouldn't (and don't) want us, and that's completely understandable. So, playing the Southpaw (mostly an alternative rock and funk club) was new and fresh. Boy, new beginnings has its pains, though. For example, the club's calendar had us listed as the "Christina McBride Band". I'm glad the show went well. They'll get it right next time, for sure! :-)

We played our last two shows of 2003 (I think!) in June at Bryant Park in NYC and the festival formerly known as the JVC festival in Saratoga Springs, NY. I received what I called the "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" at our final gig in Saratoga. When we arrived in Saratoga, we noticed that we were on before the Zawinul Syndicate. Of course, I was scared to death. I saw Joe Zawinul not too long after we completed "Vertical Vision", and I gave him a promo copy of the CD. At that time, I almost didn't want to know what he thought, because he's not known to hold back his feelings. But, of course, since we recorded "Boogie Woogie Waltz", and consequently took LOTS of heat from all the jazz critics for sounding like a not-so-good-carbon-copy of Weather Report, I then took a special interest in Zawinul's opinion - I was just too chicken to call him and get it! After we played what I thought was one of our best shows this whole year (special thanks goes out to Dave Fiuczynski for joining us at Bryant Park and Saratoga), I saw Zawinul backstage. I was absolutely dying inside. After a quick hug, he then said in his strong, brooding, heavy Austrian accent, "Maannnnn, you guys played the f ****** s*** out of "Boogie Woogie Waltz"!!!" I'd received the blessing from the man himself! He then took me aside and said to me, "Christian, I've been reading what the critics have been saying about you and your new CD. Don't let that stuff bother you. You guys should be proud. You have great cats in your band, and I like the CD a lot. You guys are looking forward as you look backwards. That's not easy to do. Don't let these critics get you down, man. F*** the critics!!!!'

You hear that Down Beat? I didn't say it, ZAWINUL DID!!!

VERTICAL VISION '03 - Christian McBride

<< back