The McBride Diaries (Vol.13)
Posted on 1/19/2006at 11:24 PM
As with any year, 2005 had it's highs and lows. On a personal front, I experienced exhilaration I could have never imagined (getting married). I experienced the true meaning of transition (buying a house in the boonies). I experienced great embarrassment (Terrell Owens and the Eagles). I experienced personal family loss, and like all of rest of us jazz lovers, dealt with the loss of a lot of great musicians - Jimmy Smith, Shirley Horn, Bobby Short, Lucky Thompson, Arnie Lawrence, Oscar Brown Jr, John Stubblefield and so many others. Many of these great musicians I knew very well like Jimmy and Shirley, but there was also Percy Heath, Jimmy Woode, Keter Betts, Milt Grayson and a man who was a friend not only to me, but to all of America, Peter Jennings.

It's very hard to suddenly lose someone you respect, but it's especially hard to deal with losing someone who you KNOW and respect. But I always think about what the great Billy Higgins told me just a few months before his death, "We're like flowers and plants - it's necessary for us to die to help replenish the soil for new flowers to grow." Then I think about Wayne Shorter. Once, in 1997, Brian Blade and I were driving to his house to rehearse. Brian had rented some kind of weird pickup truck with a hood. Like a Chevy Silverado or something. Somewhere between the hotel and Wayne's house, we hit a speed bump, the hood came down hard on my bass, which was lying in the back with the bridge facing up. We put a pillow on top of the bass just in case that very thing happened. Apparently, that idea didn't work. When we got to Wayne's house, my bass was badly, badly damaged. The hood had knocked the bridge almost straight through the front of the bass. As any musician would do seeing their instrument badly damaged, I freaked. (which, by the way, has never been my style. heh-heh!) Anyhow, I shouted something like, "Oh, no!!" Wayne said, "What's wrong?" I just pointed at my bass. Without flinching one muscle in his face, Wayne calmly said, "Aw, that's alright. What's going to happen is that you're going to get that bass fixed, and it's going to sound better than ever. Just play your electric bass for now..." Now, I know this incident is a far cry from dealing with death, but the fact is Wayne Shorter doesn't believe in negative energy or prolonged sadness. You must move on in life. He believes that all bad energy can be instantaneously reversed. I'm not saying that he doesn't get sad or angry like any human being, I'm just saying that he deals with true positive energy and peace. Maybe it's his Buddhist philosophy. I'm sure it is. So, my point is....for every great or bad thng that may happen at any given time - death, illness, losing a gig, getting a gig, not getting a gig, finding a love, losing a love.....STAY COOL, IT'S ALL RELATIVE!!!

So, since I've discovered that so many people actually read this diary, I'm going to entertain you now....

2005 began with the recording of the new CMB "Live at Tonic" CD. 2005 ended in James Brown's dressing room at B.B. King's club in New York. Not bad, I would say. In between those two incidents, it was one hell of a year! A lot of great stuff happened. I was officially named Co-Director of the new Jazz Museum in Harlem, I was named Creative Chair of the L.A. Philharmonic's Jazz Series, won my first Grammy, made my frist trip to Australia, played a classical concert with the Shanghai Quartet, toured with David Sanborn, got married, bought a house, accidentally started a second band (the "situation"), toured with Pat Metheny, got to play with Joe Zawinul (more on that later...), and I met the "Greatest", MUHAMMAD ALI!! With such a fulfilling year, you know what the flip side of that was, right?


Now, I run into musicians who don't even say hello. They just go right into...

"Oh, yeah, think you bad? You ain't S*)#!!"

"You got all the gigs, huh? When you gonna hook ME up with something, huh? When you gonna hook ME up??"

"Oh, you think you a leader in Harlem now? Who the hell you think you are, Malcolm X??"

"Oh, yeah, I gotta call your MANAGER now, huh? Oh, excuse me, Mr."You-have-to-call-my-manager..."

"Hey, Christian... I want Sting to play on/at my record/festival/school/club. Hook it up for me! I KNOW YOU GOT HIS HOME NUMBER!!"

"Christian, I'd like you to play on my gig/recording, but I know I'm not Carly Simon....or Sting....or Diana Krall....or whoever else famous you play with..."

People are a trip. But it's all good. Kind of reminds me of what a musician told me not that long ago - that I have "Teenager's disease." I said, "What is that?" He said, "You know, Christian, almost everyone in the jazz world still thinks of you as that 17 year old kid fresh outta Philly gigging at Bradley's. You'll never be anything else to them. Since these people watched you grow up, they think they own a piece of you. You'll be well into your 50's, and they'll still be talking about "Our little Christian. We remember him when......"

I didn't like hearing that. Made me feel like Michael Jackson, Emmanuel Lewis or Gary Coleman or something. They're all freaks! I ain't no damn freak!

Well "Teenager's disease" or not, I like my life right now. And honestly, I've always liked my life! I liked it in 1998 when I had a bad year and wasn't gigging that much. I like making people laugh and I LOVE to laugh. That's what it's all about. So, to all the haters out there, Melissa and I will be thinking about you all when we fly on our private, maximum-security plane to DC to have lunch with Bill and Hilary. But we have to get back because Melissa's got a photo shoot for Elle Magazine the next day, and I start pre-production for my new movie with Brad Pitt. (You DID know that Brad was Angelina's rebound after WE broke up, right? I'm glad they seem to be holding it together...) Then after that, I suppose we'll go to the Vanguard to hear some jazz musicians we used to know before we became Mr and Mrs Jazz America. Ahh.. the good life!

(blues traveler's on tv right now. john popper's trippin' me out. a lot of drama in his stage antics when he sings. looks like joe cocker or something. i'm sure he's a cool cat, though....)

If I had to pick one very special moment in '05, I think I'd pick this:

Back in November, I was thrilled to be a performer at the grand opening of the new Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY. The Ali center will be a combination museum/community center right in downtown Louisville, the champ's hometown. If there's any one single person who's work I know as thoroughly as James Brown, it's Muhammad Ali. I've studied his entire life intensely for years. I never thought I'd ever get to meet him - not even at the gala. That night, I played with Herbie Hancock and also played a duet with Kathleen Battle. And if that wasn't enough, at the end of the night, Bill Clinton joined Muhammad and Lonnie Ali onstage to give a moving, heartfelt speech. At the conclusion of the speech, all of the performers were invited back onstage for a huge finale led by Bebe and Cece Winans. Lonnie Ali, in all of her class and splendor, greeted all of the performers one by one as she walked around the entire stage. She's such a magnificent person. As I thanked and hugged her, I felt Muhammad Ali was nearby. His presence is as powerful as the sun. I had somehow been gradually shoved (the stage was heavily crowded) closer to his seat onstage. Let's face it, Muhammad Ali is not someone you want to just shake hands with and say "Hi, Champ!" This is a man who looked America dead in the face and called its bluff, suffered the consequences, and came out a hero. A true hero. All the while, he entertained us. Even in his most dire moments, he never failed at trying to make people smile and realize that all he was doing was living his life as HE wanted - not how OTHER people wanted. As I stood there, I caught his eye, and slowly walked to him (afraid I would be bum-rushed by security!), leaned down and said "Thank you for making our lives better" and gave him a hug. I did take a photo with him, but just as the flash went off, someone jumped in front. Man, I wanted to slap that guy! Needless to say, I didn't have a second chance for a photo, but that's ok. I touched 'THE GREATEST"!!

Let me tell you about the Joe Zawinul thing...

2005 saw the final year of the Northsea Jazz Festival being held in Den Haag after 30-plus years. As of '06, it will move to Rotterdam. To commemorate the final year in Den Haag, the festival staged all of these organized jam sessions. One of the more bizarre ones featured Zawinul and.....Barry Harris! The other musicians slated to partake in this session were yours truly (bass), Ravi Coltrane (tenor), Toon Roos (tenor), John Scofield (guitar), Bill Stewart (drums) and Toots Thielemans (harmonica). All enquiring minds wanted to know if, for starters, would Zawinul play two pianos with Barry Harris? Or, would he play his regular keyboard rig? Then, we wondered if Barry Harris was going to slam Zawinul with one of those "how-could-you-leave-bebop-to-play-fusion" sermons. Well, respectively, Zawinul played his keyboard rig, and Barry Harris did not give Zawinul the biz. He and Joe have remained friends all these years. It was great to see those two together.

As for the actual session, it was only two tunes - "Blue and Boogie" and "Perdido." (Both in Bb, both medium-fast!) It was so, so strange. Weird. For starters, Bill Stewart was about 25 feet away from me on stage, and Barry's piano was setup behind me! Through all of that weirdness, I must say that it was a rush to look to my right and see the beeny cap, thick moustache, the rolled up shirt sleeves and the KORG logo. Zawinul! Yeah!

In retrospect, what would be the highlight of '05?



"The Boss"

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