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Christian McBride Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard

christian mcbride trio live at the village vanguard

Christian McBride's diversity is apparent before you hear the first note. Steeped in the background of Philadelphia, and brought to a boil with master chefs including Ray Brown, Chick Corea, Roy Haynes, Freddie Hubbard and Pat Metheny. Add extra spice from James Brown, Sting, Kathleen Battle, Lalo Schifrin and the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra, and what you get is a master bassist who's comfortable in any kitchen.

McBride's own recordings bear this out: a Grammy award for his big band release, The Good Feeling, his Inside Straight Band making you miss your exit, his electric band captured at Tonic in New York, or his synergized trio, which is the focus here.

As Christian says, "there's a lot of cookin' trios out there, doing their thing and turning heads. Our traction is straight ahead, with a push forward. There's nothing more modern than a standard with the push."

McBride's bandmates are pianist Christian Sands, who Dr. Billy Taylor said watch out about when Sands was a teen. Drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., who cites early experiences with legendary pianist Mulgrew Miller, and inspiration from Lewis Nash, Roy Haynes and Jo Jones, plays his way like Dennis Rodman on the basketball court with the Pistons in Detroit - it all seemed like one continuous move.

For this recording, the trio's follow up to Out Here, the move was down those hallowed steps on 7th Avenue South - The Village Vanguard, where Christian first lit it up as a leader in 1995. McBride says, "you can feel Coltrane hovering in the vortex...Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Mingus, you feel all of that in the air around you."

The PUSH...right away these three share their sauce with Wes Montgomery's "Fried Pies."  How hot you ask? Think oven mitts...oven mitts with big holes in 'em...OUCH!!

From there the thermometer turns even higher with J.J. Johnson's "Interlude." The title misleads as Sands' piano lines dance, McBride's bass in scorching interplay and Owens' call and response drum work making you wish you'd been in the front row.

"Sand Dune," written by the pianist, is a beautiful waltz like exchange with steps you delight to take in. As the spirit builds, McBride's soloing demonstrates why he is such a joy to witness.

"There'll be no darkness tonight..." lyrics that begin Rod Temperton's "The Lady In My Life," from Michael Jackson's  epic "Thriller" recording, speak the truth about the music this night at The Vanguard. A spacious soulful three part harmony has McBride, Sands and Owens in the same air as the masters who shed such amazing light there before.

Ray Noble's "Cherokee" is next. Fun at this clip is, for sure, fascinating, and warrants a ticket under normal driving conditions...a turbocharged trio diggin' the next turn in the road.

Betty Carter once told me the real soul of a musical person comes out in a ballad. Rich and deep the soul here, played out beautifully with Christian's bow in hand melody to pianist Sands' spaciousness and Owens' mallets and brushes.. a gorgeous painting.

Next, it's go to meetin' time, with a get up inside you soulful swing on "Down By The Riverside." Reverend McBride and Deacons Sands and Owens have you puttin' all your coin in the plate! This one's a strong reminder not to forget that foldin' money either. 

Don't know if Rose Royce was ever at the Vanguard. Christian, Christian and Ulysses close with the ever-funky "Car Wash," putting an R&B finish to a night I'm sure had the walls sweatin'.

They came out that night. Live At The Village Vanguard, from The Christian McBride Trio, comes out September 18 on Mack Avenue Records.

- Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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