Bassist extraordinaire, composer, arranger, educator, curator and administrator, CHRISTIAN McBRIDE has been one of the most important and original figures in the jazz world for 20 years.
Beginning in 1989, the Philadelphia-born bassist moved to New York City to further his classical music studies at the Juilliard School, only to be snatched up by alto saxophonist, Bobby Watson. Since then, McBride’s list of accomplishments has been nothing short of staggering. As a sideman in the jazz world alone, he has worked with the best of the very best – Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, J.J. Johnson, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Pat Metheny. In the R&B world, he has not only performed with, but also arranged for, Isaac Hayes, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, Lalah Hathaway, and the one and only “Godfather of Soul” himself, James Brown. In the pop/rock world, he has collaborated extensively with Sting, Carly Simon, Don Henley, and Bruce Hornsby. In the hip-hop/neo-soul world, he has collaborated with the Roots, D’Angelo, and Queen Latifah. In many other specialty projects, he has worked closely with opera legend Kathleen Battle, bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer, the Shanghai Quartet, the Sonus Quartet, and led his own ensembles: The Christian McBride Band, A Christian McBride Situation, and his most recent group, Inside Straight (resulting in their critically acclaimed 2009 effort, Kind of Brown).
Away from the bass, Christian has become an astute and respected spokesperson for the arts. In 1997, he spoke at President Bill Clinton’s town hall meeting “Racism in the Performing Arts.” In 2000, he was named Artistic Director of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass (JAS) Summer Sessions. In 2005, he was officially named Co-Artistic Director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Also in 2005, he was named the Carolyn and Bill Powers Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
In 1998, McBride composed The Movement, Revisited – a four-movement suite dedicated to four of the major figures of the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The piece was commissioned by the Choral Arts Society (Portland, Maine) and the National Endowment for the Arts. The piece was performed throughout the New England states in the fall of 1998 with McBride’s quartet and a 30-piece gospel choir led by J.D. Steele.
Ten years later, in 2008, The Movement, Revisited was expanded, re-written, and performed again, in Los Angeles at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The updated version now featured the gospel choir, an 18-piece big-band and four actors/speakers. The Los Angeles Times praised The Movement as “a work that was admirable for both the content of its music and the character of its message.”
Since 2000, McBride has blazed a trail as a bandleader with the Christian McBride Band (affectionately known as the “CMB”). McBride’s fellow bandmates – saxophonist Ron Blake, keyboardist Geoffrey Keezer, and drummer Terreon Gully – have sympathetically shared McBride’s all-inclusive, forward-thinking outlook on music, releasing two CDs: the 2003 Vertical Vision and the 2006 Live at Tonic. Writer Alan Leeds called McBride’s band “one of the most intoxicating, least predictable bands on the scene today.” It is a group that has mesmerizingly walked an electro-acoustic fault line with amazing results.
In 2009, Christian released his quintet CD Christian McBride & Inside Straight on the Detroit-based Mack Avenue Records. The CD was a return to his undiluted “straight-ahead” roots, featuring alto/soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Eric Reed, and drummer Carl Allen.
His second release for the label was Conversations with Christian – a recording of duets with some of McBride’s best friends and mentors: George Duke, Angelique Kidjo, Dr. Billy Taylor, Hank Jones, Chick Corea, Eddie Palmieri, Regina Carter, Ron Blake, Roy Hargrove, and Russell Malone, among others.
In a stellar career that continues to showcase his remarkable talents as a consummate musician, the bassist reached another milestone with the 2011 release of The Good Feeling, his first big band recording as a leader, again for Mack Avenue Records. (In 2012, it won the Grammy for Best Large Ensemble Jazz Album.) There are many sides to the musical persona of Christian McBride, and the album reveals yet one more facet: as the leader, arranger, and conductor of his big band.
McBride received his fifth Grammy® Award in the Best Improvised Jazz Solo category for his performance on “Cherokee,” from his new Live at the Village Vanguard album. Starting with this year’s Newport Jazz Festival, McBride is the Artistic Director of the long-running Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, R.I.
For over 20 years, McBride has appeared in numerous settings with just about every musician imaginable in the jazz, R&B, and pop worlds. And what has always been unique about McBride is his versatility.