[Dixielandjazz] Christian McBride -
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Jan 10 16:43:14 PST 2005
NOT OKOM - For the Double Bassists on the list and perhaps for those who may
not realize just how vital and alive Jazz is these days. This is a LONG
article so skip it if you are not into Jazz in the broadest sense. It is
also about a fellow Philadelphian, friend, nice man, and genius.
Congratulations to one of the finest bassists (double bass and electric
bass) that anyone will ever hear.
The Jazz Museum in Harlem
104 E. 126th Street
New York, NY 10035
JAZZ MUSEUM IN HARLEM APPOINTS CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
New York, NY (January 7, 2005) The Jazz Museum in Harlem (JMIH) announced
today that its Board of Directors has appointed Christian McBride to assume
the office of Co-Director. Mr. McBride will work with Loren Schoenberg, the
Museum's Executive Director.
As Co-Director, Mr. McBride will bring his extensive experience as a premier
educator, producer and internationally acclaimed bandleader/bassist to the
Museum. Leonard Garment, Chairman of the Board of JMIH said, "it gives me
great pleasure to announce Christian McBride¹s appointment. His tremendous
career up until this point makes his coming aboard all the more exciting.
His energy and intelligence will help us realize our dream as it continues
to morph into a reality." Loren Schoenberg adds: "Few musicians have as
broad a range of ability and talent as Christian does. Saying that I am
looking forward to working with Christian would be an understatement. He¹s a
true giant." Christian McBride said, "I am honored to join this team. We're
going to make this museum happen in a way that does honor to the musicians
who created it, and we're going to do it right here in Harlem, where it
The Jazz Museum in Harlem is a not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to
building a world-class jazz museum in Harlem. They are currently presenting
HARLEM SPEAKS twice a month, an interview series saluting people who have
made a change in the world and who love jazz. Information about this, about
their new fundraising campaign and much more background can be found at
their website: www.jazzmuseuminharlem.org
CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE BIO
Christian McBride has arguably become the most acclaimed acoustic and
electric bassist to emerge from the jazz world in the 1990¹s. While jazz
lies at the root of Christian's accomplishments, it is his passion for music
in a very broad sense that has made him an esteemed bassist, composer,
arranger, educator, and bandleader. His passion for musical diversity has
led him to work with everyone from Chick Corea to Pat Metheny, from Kathleen
Battle to D'Angelo, from Diana Krall to Bruce Hornsby, from Quincy Jones to
Sting. Given the bass is the heart and soul of any style of music, this
makes Christian McBride's versatility that much more impressive.
Christian was born on May 31, 1972 in Philadelphia. Having two working
bassists in the family proved to be a major influence on him. There was his
father, Lee Smith, who played bass for everyone from local Philly Soul
superstars like the Delfonics and Billy Paul, to Cuban conguero, Mongo
Santamaria. Then there was his great uncle, Howard Cooper, who played bass
with members of the jazz avant-garde, including Sun Ra and Khan Jamal.
Electric bass was Christian's first instrument, which he began playing at
age 9. Two years later, he took on the acoustic bass. While intensely
studying classical music, Christian's interest and love for jazz also took
flight. At the age of 13, he began causing a buzz around the local Philly
jazz scene, sitting in with as many local musicians as possible. The
following year, at age 14, Christian would meet Wynton Marsalis who would
become a big brother figure and mentor for McBride, outlining a variety of
milestones he should strive to achieve in order to enhance his clearly
promising career. Marsalis would put the word out on McBride to his fellow
colleagues. New York was waiting.
While attending Philadelphia's fertile High School for the Creative and
Performing Arts (C.A.P.A.), McBride found himself in the company of other
young talents such as members of what would become the first recognized
Hip-Hop BAND - The Roots, vocalists Boyz II Men, organist Joey DeFrancesco,
vocalist/songwriter Amel Larrieux, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and
singer/songwriter Marc Nelson (now a member of Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds'
camp). Upon graduating in 1989, McBride was awarded a partial scholarship to
attend the world-renowned Juilliard School in New York City to study with
the legendary bassist, Homer Mensch. That summer, before making the move to
the Big Apple, McBride got his first taste of the touring life going to
Europe with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, and also touring the U.S. with
the 80's fusion group, Free Flight. He was now ready to tackle Juilliard and
New York City.
Interestingly, McBride was already so good, so versatile, and in-demand,
that he never had a chance to settle into his Juilliard studies. Within the
first two weeks of the semester, he joined Bobby Watson's band, Horizon. He
also started working around New York at clubs such as Bradley's and the
Village Gate with real hard-core New York stalwarts as John Hicks, Kenny
Barron, Larry Willis, and Gary Bartz. After one year at Juilliard, McBride
made a decision to leave school and tour with trumpeter Roy Hargrove's first
band, electing ³experience with as many musicians as possible" as the best
teacher. In August of 1990, he landed a coveted position in legendary
trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's band until January of 1993. When Hubbard's band
was on hiatus, McBride also worked in one of the hottest bands of the early
90's, The Benny Green Trio. McBride's star was quickly on the rise.
In 1991, the legendary bassist Ray Brown heard McBride, and asked young
Christian to join "SuperBass" a group Brown tailor made for Christian and
John Clayton. This truly solidified Christian's place in the jazz canon.
McBride would take full advantage of having Ray Brown as a
mentor/father-figure. McBride was also named Rolling Stone magazine¹s "Hot
Jazz Artist" of 1992. The next year, he truly proved it as a member of
guitarist Pat Metheny's "Special Quartet" which included the late, great
drum master, Billy Higgins, and the then-up-and-coming saxophonist, Joshua
Redman. While recording and touring with Redman the following year in his
"Moodswing" band, McBride was signed to Verve Records in the summer of 1994,
recording his first CD as a leader, "Gettin' To It" - one of the biggest
selling jazz records of 1995. The crown jewel of the CD is Neal Hefti¹s
"Splanky," which features Christian in a three-way bass-off with his two
father figures, Ray Brown and Milt Hinton. The success of "Getting' To It"
paved the way for Christian McBride to become a bandleader.
Kudos of other sorts were soon forthcoming. Philadelphia's Mellon Jazz
Festival of 1994 was dedicated to McBride (along with Lee Morgan,
posthumously). He also received a commission from Jazz at Lincoln Center to
compose "Bluesin In Alphabet City," performed by Wynton Marsalis with the
Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra featuring McBride as special guest. He then
toured and recorded in an all-star band with another legend, pianist Chick
Corea. In turn, Corea was a special guest on McBride¹s 1996 sophomore CD,
"Number Two Express." The recording reunited Corea with his former Miles
Davis bandmate, drummer Jack DeJohnette. It was the first time the two
recorded together in over twenty years.
During this time, McBride achieved something that meant more to him
personally than any gig or recording session he finally befriended his
boyhood idol, James Brown 'The Godfather of Soul'. For over a year, Brown
and McBride talked about collaborating. Disappointingly, the collaboration
never happened due to contractual and legal issues. However, McBride was
able to co-produce a yet-to-be-reissued CD of James Brown's jazz-tinged LP,
"Soul on Top" (King Records, 1969), which was recorded with Louis Bellson's
McBride's third Verve CD, the controversial "A Family Affair" (1998),
reflected his rediscovery of music from his childhood. Produced by
keyboardist and jazz-funk fusion pioneer George Duke, the album found him
recording brilliant jazz arrangements of soul classics such as Stevie
Wonder's "Summer Soft," Earth, Wind & Fire's "I¹ll Write A Song For You,"
Kool and The Gang's "Open Sesame," The Spinners' "I'm Coming Home," and the
Sly & The Family Stone smash, "Family Affair," from which the project
gleaned its title. The CD also showcased McBride's first attempts as a
lyricist on two songs, "A Dream of You" (sung by soul crooner Will Downing),
and the cold-blooded "·Or So You Thought" (sung by the vivacious Vesta).
This project challenged many of Christian's staunch traditional jazz fans by
his choice of material and because he played electric bass on half of the
ten selections. The CD was released to mixed reviews from the jazz
community, but it introduced a new audience to McBride's artistry. Later in
1998, the Portland (ME) Arts Society, and the National Endowment for the
Arts awarded McBride with a commission to write "The Movement, Revisited,"
Christian's dramatic musical portrait of the civil rights struggle of the
1960's. Written for quartet and a 30-piece gospel choir, the project
challenged Christian more than any other up to that point. Collaborating
with J.D.Steele (of the renowned gospel family, The Steeles), four very
successful concerts were presented late that year. McBride hopes to record
the piece one day.
In 2000, McBride released his fourth and most successful CD since his debut
"Gettin To It" was released in 1995. "SCI-FI" was released to rave reviews
in the fall of 2000. Produced by McBride, the CD was in many ways a perfect
blending of all the extremely diverse ideas that McBride had hinted at
combining in his two previous CD's. Along with the wonderful Dianne Reeves,
it was not ironic that the legendary jazz maverick, Herbie Hancock, were
special guests on the CD.
In 2001, McBride took on two projects that took him to even greater levels
of musical diversity and popularity. "The Philadelphia Experiment" was a CD
released in the summer of '01, and was an instant success with the younger
college "jam band"; crowd. The CD reunited Christian with his former high
school running buddy, leader of The Roots, drummer/producer Ahmir Thompson
better known to the Hip Hop and R&B world as "?uestlove." The CD also
featured the exciting pianist/keyboardist Uri Caine, and the great Pat
Martino on guitar.
Later that year, pop star Sting would invite Christian to join his new band.
McBride would now become one of those rare artists from the jazz world to be
a part of the pop scene. It should have come as no surprise to anyone that
an artist with such a broad palette as Sting would summon a talent like
Christian. Christian would be a key figure in Sting's 2001 CD/DVD, "All This
In addition to all of his solo recordings, throughout the last decade
McBride has been featured on over 200 recordings and has toured and/or
recorded with artists such as David Sanborn, George Duke, McCoy Tyner, Bobby
Hutcherson, Chaka Khan, Joe Henderson, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Milt
Jackson, Peabo Bryson, Ray Brown, Natalie Cole, George Benson, Benny Golson,
Johnny Griffin, and Issac Hayes. McBride has graced the big screen playing
his bass in director Robert Altman's 1940's period piece, "Kansas City"
(1996), as well as its two soundtracks.
Not content to only play music, McBride continues to challenge himself in
other arenas. As a speaker, he participated on a panel for former President
Clinton's town hall meeting on "Racism in the Performing Arts." Other
speakers included such personalities as choreographer Garth Fagan, and Star
Trek's "Mr. Sulu," George Takei. McBride was also a part of Stanford
University's panel on "Black Performing Arts in Mainstream America." He also
took the plunge into cyberspace by hosting a weekly "jazz chat" series of
one-on-one interviews for Sonicnet.com. He has written the foreword for a
book by pianist Jonny King called, "What Jazz Is" (Walker & Co., New York).
For McBride, jazz education has always been a prime concern. He does
numerous workshops and clinics at universities all over the country, and in
2000, McBride was named artistic director of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer
Program, and in 2001, was named artistic director of the University of
Richmond's summer jazz program, as well as the Dave Brubeck Institute at the
University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.
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