Posted on 7/13/2006at 7:23 AM
July 12, 2006

Divergence in Technicolor:
An Interview With Christian McBride

The bandleading bassist pulls together a cast of violins and trumpets and turntables for complex exploration, and he makes it sound fun.

by Dennis Cook

The stank nasty roar that opens Live at Tonic, the expansive new three-disc concert set by the Christian McBride Band, rivals the hardest, nastiest Frank Zappa. Led by virtuoso acoustic and electric bassist McBride, the quartet quickly drops down into rugged, conversational bass depths before shooting into the atmosphere. These are the kinetic dynamics of one of the hottest, most scary talented bands in jazz today. Eschewing any traditionalist stiffness, McBride's boys swing like a 50-pound haymaker clutching strands of boogaloo, rock, bossa nova, and dub. Warm-blooded and lithe as a conservatory dancer, Geoffrey Keezer (keyboards), Ron Blake (saxophones, flute), and Terreon Gully (drums) move with restless imaginations anchored by confidence and cool that cannot be manufactured.

At the helm is one of the strongest, most versatile voices to emerge in bass playing in 20 years. With this group, his compositions and personality have blossomed -- the fulfillment of all the promise one hears in McBride's past work with Bobby Watson, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Sting, Abbey Lincoln, and many dozens more. He's also a noted music educator, Lincoln Center composer, and Creative Chair for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a position passed on to him by Dianne Reeves. When Christian McBride is holding down the low end there's a kind of ease of spirit that takes hold. Everyone around him knows the music will have energy and substance if he's involved.

Taken from a two-night run at the intimate, often experimental NYC club, Live at Tonic brings in some well-chosen guests to jam. The second disc gets pretty free range with guitarist Charlie Hunter, keyboardist Jason Moran, and an especially frisky Jenny Scheinman on violin. The third disc is soulful grooving with the Roots' former member Scratch, turntable wizard DJ Logic, Rashawn Ross on trumpet, and Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno. All make appealing contributions that will likely expose McBride's music to new listeners familiar only with the guests but it is the quartet itself that will drop your jaw on the first disc of highlights from the run. Unhampered by rules and skilled enough to wander where they will, the Christian McBride Band have the potential to be one of those classic combinations like Gary Bartz Ntu Troop or Miles Davis' In a Silent Way-era quintet. When he speaks about music, it's always with an ear towards wider boundaries and more intrinsic freedom for those who play it. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Christian McBride.

To read the entire interview, click here:

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