The McBride Diaries (Vol.15)
Posted on 7/14/2006at 8:59 AM
You gotta be kidding me – it’s JULY already? Well, as usual, I must give my obligatory apology. I didn’t think It would be the start of the second half of the year before I wrote another “My Thang” entry. But, again, it’s been a busy, busy year. Right now, I’m actually sitting on a tour bus with the Metheny Gang somewhere between Cordoba, Spain and Peniscola, Spain. I’m a little sad, actually. After this tour is over, Pat, Antonio and I will say our temporary goodbyes. It hit me a few nights ago – we’ve been touring together for three years! We did our first gig together in July of 2003 at the Jazz Baltica festival. Michael Brecker played with us, too. Although the three of us have obviously done seperate projects since ’03, we’ve always managed to have a number of gigs planned way ahead of schedule, so I always knew we would be together again, but as of 2007, Pat will embark on an exciting tour with Brad Mehldau’s Trio. (No need to thank me for the free pub, fellas…)

One interesting thing about this tour is that I’m using my Juzek bass, Bertha, again. I haven’t toured with this bass in over ten years. Bertha was close to destroyed in December of 1995 on my very first European tour as a leader. As is usually the case, sloppy airline luggage handlers got her. (Now do you know why I hate flying so much? They charge you for every single solitary pound overweight AND they destroy or lose your luggage because they’re so lazy and careless. I HATE FLYING!!) Almost every CD I ever played on before 1996, I played Bertha. After she was damaged, I was introduced to Minnie. Minnie, who’s a bit smaller than Bertha (Bertha’s a 7/8 size bass, Minnie’s 3/4) has been my main bass ever since. Minnie was supposed to be a temporary replacement until Bertha was healthy. Unfortunately, Bertha’s injuries were so bad, it took her an entire decade to heal. Even still, she doesn’t sound quite like she used to. David Gage did a magical job getting her sound back, but it still doesn’t quite have that growl it had back in the early 90’s. If you want to hear Bertha at her peak, listen to a CD I did with Milt Jackson back in 1994 called “Burnin’ In The Woodhouse”. Bertha’s hollerin’ on that CD! Also, on any Criss Cross CD from that period. (Like Don Braden’s CD’s) She also appeared on my first two CD’s, “Gettin’ To It” and “Number Two Express.” In case you’re wondering, that’s not Bertha on the cover of “Gettin’ to it”, that was a prop bass. (it came from some theater company) And Minnie is on the cover of “Number Two Express” although you’re hearing Bertha on the CD. By the time we took photos for the CD cover, Bertha had already been damaged. So, here we are, eleven years later, and Bertha’s back on the road again! She’s a bit fiesty. She counterpunches! I haven’t played a 7/8 size bass in so long, I’m totally out of shape. The string length is longer, the action is a bit higher (with the bridge all the way down), and I have to WORK to get my lines out. Every night after the gig, I feel like I’ve gone 12 rounds with ol’ Bertha.

(Reuters - Peniscola, Spain: Tonight in sports……Christian McBride won a narrow split decision in a bloody match with Bertha Bass. In a non-stop action packed match, Bass did a great job at slowing down McBride’s fleet jabs and string-crossings. Bass also responded with quick counter-jabs and her tough action proved to be hard on McBride’s fingers. Both fighters were pretty well spent at the end of the match. Bass has proven to be quite a formidable opponent for McBride, who was unavailable for comment after the fight. A rematch is scheduled for tomorrow in Gerona, Spain. Bass was quoted as saying “I’ll get his a** again tomorrow night.) In other news…..

Can you believe the cast of “Law and Order” is about to change again??? As I said in one of my earlier entries, I was so crushed when Jerry Orbach (Detective Lennie Briscoe) died in December of ’04, I decided that whoever replaced him would be no good and that I wouldn’t like him. That “whoever” was Dennis Farina (Detective Joe Fontana). Just as I was finally starting to accept him, he decides to quit the show! Two seasons and out. Jeez! On top of that, did you see that Annie Parisse (ADA Alexandra Borgia) is gone now, too? Did you see that season finale? Wow! Alana De La Garza (from CSI: Miami) will replace Annie Parisse, and dig this - Law and Order will have their first female detective!! Milena Govich will replace Dennis Farina. As much as I love the show, I wish “Law and Order” could KEEP some Law and Order with the cast!!

So, are you ready for my month-by-month description of this year so far? (Sure you are…)

January – The year started off swingin’, big time! Right after I made my first (and only) entry this year, I found out that it was safe for me to tell the world that I was finally going to meet Mr James Brown officially. Why didn’t I mention anything earlier? Because I didn’t believe it! I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to play and conduct at the same time. That’ll be interesting.

My first recording session(s) of the year were with the legendary drummer, Jimmy Cobb. Dig this: Session 1 – Jimmy Cobb (drums), yours truly (bass) and the great Hank Jones (piano). No need to tell you how great that felt. Wait until you hear the CD. Session 2 – Jimmy Cobb (drums), yours truly (bass), Javon Jackson (tenor sax) and the great Cedar Walton (piano). That was nice and hard hittin’. Wait’ll you hear THAT one. Wanna hear a great surrealistic New York story? Cedar and I both had our cars towed during the session. (Don’t park on 8th Avenue during the afternoon if you know what’s good for you. We both knew that. We were just being hard-headed….) After the session, there’s Javon taking Cedar and I to the tow pound over on the West Side Highway. It’s nasty, wet and funky with rats running around everywhere. And there we are waiting for our cars, and I’m thinking…..”I’m in the TOW POUND with Cedar Walton!!!” How cool!

February – February was pretty calm. I did a recording with Ann Hampton Callaway that turned out real nice. After that, Pat, Antonio and I did a little “warm up” tour to prepare for our trip “down under”. We played in Athens (GA), Tallahassee (U of F), Greenville (SC) and Falls Church (VA). All the gigs were cool.

March – I went to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Reading (PA), Oakland, Santa Cruz, Chicago, Home, Willamsburg (VA), then back to Australia. A bit masochistic, I’d say. I decided that if I didn’t get some type of zen happening in my body, spirit and mind, I’d be salty and catty the entire month from all that traveling. One thing that compounded the already compressed saltiness was the fact that I had to play Yoshi’s and Kuumbwa (my west coast residences) with my band without my gear. Why? Good ol’ TSA (Transportation Security Administration – the guys who frisk you at the airport) didn’t approve the Metheny trio’s equipment back into the USA for almost THREE WEEKS!!! Of course, my basses (and Antonio’s drums) were part of the gear. By the time my stuff got back to the USA, I really didn’t need it. Boy, I was steamed. We still had good gigs, though. You know how the CMB rolls in Northern Cally. My buddies, Barry Green and Pat Klobas bailed me out with instruments to play. The CMB's slowly working in some new original material. Watch out! When my basses finally arrived, I was one day into a recording project with Bruce Hornsby at his studio in Williamsburg, VA. I’m curious to see how Bruce’s fans react to this CD. It’s unquestionably a hard core JAZZ CD – and a GOOD one! You know, I’ve had plenty of experiences recording “jazz” cd’s with artists who aren’t jazz artists. The results are inconsistent at best. But Bruce’s CD is the real thing. It’s a trio with Bruce, myself and Jack DeJohnette. Bruce did a great job putting the tunes and the arrangements together. He practiced real, real hard getting his jazz trio chops together. Wait until it comes out, I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised. (Do I smell tour?)

Getting back to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand with Pat….

“G’day, bloaks and sheilas! How ya’ goin’? My trip to Australia was heaps nice. I went there with the American jazzer, Pat Metheny. I wondered how the natives would accept us as a group, because we’re bloody noisy, mate. But no worries. No one even ran out on us to use the dunny! Ok, mates, I’m going to Starbucks for a long mac before the footy match. G’day!”

I described Australia in one of my earlier “My Thang” entries, so I won’t bother doing it again. This trip, we went to Perth (where I got my first ever sunburn!) and Adelaide (my new winter home!) I feel like I have almost as many friends in Adelaide as I do in New York. Pat hadn’t played in Australia in 20 years! They were very, very happy to see him again.

New Zealand was great. New Zealand is about as close to the international date line as you can get. It’s a +16 hour difference from New York. We played in Wellington. A lot of people from Auckland came to our show upset that we weren’t scheduled to play there. Hey, it wasn’t our fault. Hopefully, we’ll get to Auckland, but Wellington was great. As most of you know, New Zealand is where the “Harry Potter” movies were flimed. It’s such a beautiful place. I found that downtown Wellington looked a lot like downtown Toronto. It had a real Canadian vibe. Everyone was just kind and patient. As a matter of fact, Antonio, Jerry Wortman (Pat’s tour manager) and I went into a music store and pretty much ransacked the place. We played all the pianos and drums and everything while customers were trying to shop. In New York, LA or London, they would have thrown us out big time – “If you aren’t buying anything, please leave….” But they were just so nice. We apologized because we thought maybe we stayed in there too long, but they said, “No, we enjoyed the private concert! Since you all feel so bad, how about some free tickets?” No, just kidding. We did leave them some tickets, but they didn’t ask.

Australia's natives are the Aborigines, New Zealand's natives are the Maoris. Their history in New Zealand stretches back to the 12th century - way before the Pakeha, the white man, invaded New Zealand.

I also discovered Manuka oil. Manuka is similar to Tea Tree oil. So many different products in New Zealand contain Manuka oil, and have many uses - Aromatherapy, anti-acne preparations, foot care, oral hygiene products, skin and hair care, prevention of body and foot odor, etc, etc. You can get Manuka oil, Manuka honey, Manuka shampoo, Manuka butter, Manuka shaving cream, Manuka everything.

After New Zealand, we went to Singapore. Singapore’s a big ol’ party town. It’s a very chic and cosmopolitan place. Not quite as bright as Vegas, but there’s lots to do there. We played an absolutely GORGEOUS concert hall called the Esplanade. I didn’t catch the designer of the hall, but whoever it was, he/she is a very bad cat! In Singapore, I discovered Durien. Durien is the main local fruit. It’s something like Mango, but not quite as sweet. It’s aroma is so strong, it’ll make your eyes water. Like I said, not quite as sweet as Mango, but you’d make a quick adjustment, I’m sure.

After Singapore, we went to Bangkok. That was deep. That was my first time being someplace that was the epitome of Third World. It was a dense, hot, crowded place – kinda like New York! One thing I saw that messed me up was I saw people who had - are you ready for this? – PET ELEPHANTS!! Cats walking down the street with their elephant! Just walking. Chillin’. Actually, Elephants are sacred in Thailand, so they have people there who walk elephants through the streets for people to pay their respects. I also saw local delicacies like fried cockroaches, fried ants and beetles. Those I didn’t try!

After Thailand, I went home for like, two days, then went to another exotic place – Reading, PA. It reminded me a lot of New Zealand. Only thing that was missing was the grass, the buildings, the peaks, the valleys, the people and the atmosphere. Other than that, I didn’t miss anything about New Zealand. ☺ What WAS great about Reading was being a part of Gerald Veasley’s all-star jazz camp. Got to meet and work with some wonderful musicians and got to hang with Gerald - one of my early mentors. Do people realize what a great bassist he is? The all-star band that I was a part of featured my old buddy John Swana (trumpet), Bob Mintzer (tenor), Jimmy Bruno (guitar), Kurt Elling (vocals), Steve Smith (drums) and a musician who I think is one of the greatest unsung improvisers, composers, mentors and overall great guys who I used to work with a WHOLE lot in my early days in New York, pianist Mulgrew Miller.

April – After the Metheny tour, the Veasley camp, the CMB Yoshi’s/Kuumbwa gigs (without my bass!), and the Hornsby session, came THE ROPE-A-DOPE “WHAT IS JAZZ?” TOUR. We had a great time. A short, but sweet tour. We played NYC, Philadelphia, Boston, Boulder, LA and San Diego. Lots of drama went down before the tour started, though. Two gigs wound up getting canceled the week before we started (Atlantic City and Sayreville, NJ) which badly cut into the budget. We came real, real close to bagging the whole thing. It was hard trying to sell tickets on this tour. I’m telling you, when your manager tells you five days before a show that you’ve only sold 11 advance tickets, it tends to mess with your psyche somewhat. (“Maybe it’s not worth it – being a bandleader, that is…” “People just don’t like us…” “I’m wasting my time…” “My band’s going to leave me…” “It’s not like I can afford a publicist…”) God bless the promoters who rolled the dice and stuck it out! Two particularly special shows were Boulder and San Diego. The crowd at the Boulder Theater was totally unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of – at least at any show where MY band was involved. For starters, that particular show sold pretty well. Inside the theater, the smell of, uh, “nature” was present. The dressing rooms in that place are in the basement, so when we came upstairs, the “nature” was very strong! But, hey, it WORKED!! Those folks hung on our every note. I remember we started our set with “Sonic Tonic”. For some reason, that particular night, we started it very soft. Don’t know why. That wasn’t our, uh, “nature” (heh-heh) to start that song off that soft, but when we got loud, the crowd got louder! The Boulder show will be in my “Top 5 most memorable gigs ever…”

As for San Diego, the House of Blues had, at one point, talked of cancelling the gig because of, like I said earlier, poor advance sales. Not to mention, we played to a pretty empty house in LA at the House of Blues the night before, so I had no reason to think the San Diego House of Blues would be any better. Was I wrong, or what?? By the end of the night in SD, the entire house (it sold pretty well) was on their feet dancing and partying and having a great time. Only the smell of “nature” kept it from matching the Boulder show. ☺ But San Diego showed us all the love! I can’t wait to play there again. A great way to end the tour.

After the “What Is Jazz” tour, there I was heading off to Australia again. This time with Lalo Schifrin and “Jazz Meets the Symphony” with James Morrison and Gordon Rytmeister. What great timing – “Mission Impossible: 3” was being released while we were there. What would it be like walking along the red carpet premiere with the man himself? Well, we didn’t find out – we were gigging that night. Oh, well…

This trip, we went to Adelaide (of course), Brisbane and Sydney. I find it a bit odd that I’ve now been to Australia three times and no Melbourne. That’s like coming to the states and not going to LA. (I picked LA because Sydney would be more like New York). I’ll tell you what I did in Adelaide that was super, super hip – I went to an Aussie Football game. The AFL league. Not rugby or rugby union, but Aussie Football (known by locals as the “footy match’). I saw the Port Adelaide Power. It was so much fun. The field is over 150 yards!! AFL football is almost a combination of soccer, rugby and basketball. You can’t just run with the ball, you have to dribble – yes, dribble – every 20 feet or so. Like American football, they play four quarters, but there are only 3 bench players. THREE! Those guys run up and down that long field nonstop for four quarters with only three reserve players. Oh, I forgot – NO TIMEOUTS!! I can’t imagine how good those players cardiovascular systems are. Jeez!

One cool tradition that started (by accident) is that in each city, the bass section in each orchestra got together and had a “bass players picnic”. It was so nice to hang with those cats…and kittens. In Sydney, I also discovered a local fish called Barramundi. It was tasty. About a week before we went to Sydney, Gordon Rytmeister asked me if I’d be interested in doing a gig. I was more than happy to oblige. He asked if I knew some cats I wanted to play with and what type of gig I wanted to do – straight ahead, fusion or funk. I remembered the saxophonist Dale Barlow was from Australia, so I wondered if he would be around. He was. I hadn’t seen Dale since he was still playing with Art Blakey back in 1990. Gordon found me a smokin’ pianist/guitarist/vocalist named Rai Thistlethwaite. We had a great gig at the premier jazz club in Sydney called the Wine Banq. We just played some tunes. Loose and fun. Everyone played great. As for Lalo’s gigs, they were wonderful as always. James Morrison was freakishly great and Lalo just inspires me everytime I’m around him. What a great man and musician.

May - Upon my return the USA, I went to Chicago to play an awesome gig with the CMB at Orchestra Hall. Our special guests were DJ Logic, Regina Carter and the man himself, Fred Wesley. It was a great, great gig. The band was on fire and the special guests just made it even greater. I don’t want to sound too crazy here, but I wonder how many people have ever tried to trade 8’s with a DJ on a STRAIGHT AHEAD TUNE?? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you what – we tried it that night. I’m proud of us. Hee-hee.

After Chicago, I went to San Francisco to do a recording with legendary Headhunters drummer, Mike Clark. Mike was KILLING!! I mean, he was KILLING!! He has that super slick, stylish Roy Haynes, Tony Williams elastic thing happening. Everyone knows him for his funk chops, but his straight ahead chops are sick. The band featured Donald Harrison (alto), Christian Scott (trumpet), Jed Levy (tenor) and my new “situation” partner, Patrice Rushen (piano). Wait’ll you hear that one.

After Mike's session, I went to Washington DC to play with the CMB at the new Kennedy Center Jazz Club. The gig was recorded for NPR’s Jazzset show. I don’t know the air date, but check out http://www.npr.org/programs/jazzset. You’ll hear the results. We had a great time.

I also did a recording with the great polish singer/songwriter, Anna Maria Jopek. Many Metheny fans are familiar with her. I believe in her native country, she’s considered a pop star, but the music wasn’t pop at all. It was musical! ☺

In closing, things are going great at the Jazz Museum. Things are rolling right along. Hopefully, we’ll have our new space very, very soon. We scored big with Hank Jones as a recent guest at “Harlem Speaks”, and our “Harmony in Harlem” fundraiser was a huge success. Check our website for details: www.jazzmuseuminharlem.org. I really hope you all are visiting the Jazz Museum website. The link is right on my homepage….Hello? ☺

Part 2, coming up….

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