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Since 1989, Grammy-winner CHRISTIAN McBRIDE has been first-call bassist for hundreds of fine artists, ranging in an impressive array from McCoy Tyner and Sting to Kathleen Battle and Diana Krall. It is his own recordings, however - albums that encompass a diverse canon of original compositions and imaginatively arranged covers - that reveal the totality of his musicianship. He currently leads one of the hottest bands in music - the propulsive Christian McBride Band (saxophonist Ron Blake, keyboardist Geoffrey Keezer, and drummer Terreon Gully).
2005 witnessed his adding two prestigious appointments to his resume. In January, he was named co-director of the Jazz Museum in Harlem. While working for the museum in Harlem, McBride will be racking up frequent flyer miles as Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, giving him a degree of influence over commercial and educational programs at the Hollywood Bowl and Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Naturally, there will be more collaborations and sideman gigs, which he scrutinizes extra carefully now due to his schedule. Most importantly, he will continue to lead the Christian McBride Band, which, together with special guests, has recorded Live at Tonic for ropeadope.
Christian McBride was born on May 31, 1972 in Philadelphia. Electric bass was McBride's first instrument, which he began playing at age 9, followed by acoustic bass two years later. His first mentors on the instrument were his father, Lee Smith (a renowned bassist in Philly) and his great uncle, Howard Cooper (a disciple of the jazz avant-garde). Upon his 1989 graduation from Philadelphia's High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, McBride was awarded a partial scholarship to attend the Juilliard School in New York City.
After one year at Juilliard, McBride made a critical decision to leave school to tour with trumpeter Roy Hargrove's first band, electing "experience with as many musicians as possible" as the best teacher. In August of 1990, he landed a coveted position in trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's band until January of 1993.
In 1991, legendary bassist Ray Brown invited the young wunderkind to join him and John Clayton in the trio SuperBass. After being hailed "Hot Jazz Artist" of 1992 by Rolling Stone, Christian continued to prove it as a member of guitarist Pat Metheny's "Special Quartet," which included drum master Billy Higgins and saxophonist Joshua Redman. McBride signed to Verve Records in the summer of 1994, recording his first CD as a leader, Gettin' to It. He also graced the big screen, playing bass in director Robert Altman's 1940s period piece, Kansas City (1996).
McBride recorded three more career-shaping albums at Verve: Number Two Express (1996), the soul-jazz fusion project A Family Affair (1998 - featuring McBride's first two songs as a lyricist), and the critically acclaimed SCI-FI (2000), marking the inaugural execution of McBride's concept of music being boundless by genre.
In 2003, McBride released one album on Warner Bros. Records titled Vertical Vision, a blazing recording that introduced the current incarnation of the Christian McBride Band. He also undertook his first pop musical directorship at the helm of a Christmas show featuring gospel royalty BeBe Winans and pop star Carly Simon. The event marked stage-shy Simon's first New York concert appearance in a decade and she expressly insisted that only McBride could be her MD.
Finally, as a composer, McBride has achieved several high watermarks. Among them is a commission from Jazz at Lincoln Center to compose "Bluesin' in Alphabet City," performed by Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. And in 1998, the Portland (ME) Arts Society and the National Endowment for the Arts awarded McBride with a commission to write "The Movement, Revisited," McBride's dramatic musical portrait of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s written and arranged for quartet and a 30-piece gospel choir.