“This is a killer band, with a level of expertise and conviction that could turn jazz agnostics into true believers.” – The Guardian, July 2009
The bass – an instrument more often relegated to a supporting role than not – steers the action in jazz bass superstar Christian McBride’s hands. For his bass doesn’t just stay in the groove of the rhythm section; it also walks, tumbles, sings or swings into the foreground, clear, springy and light, with as much brawny vigour as lithe sensitivity.
He is possibly the most sought-after bassist in the world, with countless collaborations, performances and recordings since his meteoric rise to stardom in the early 90s with jazz greats such as George Duke, David Sanborn, Joshua Redman, Chick Corea, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny (with whom he performed in Mosaic Music Festival 2006), as well as pop, hip-hop and soul artists like Sting, Bruce Hornsby, Queen Latifah, James Brown and The Roots.
At the same time, he is an established composer, fantastic improviser and charismatic frontman of his own ensemble, who has delved into jazz, funk, hip-hop and fusion alike, leading LA Times to say in 2003, “Christian McBride performs superbly in so many contexts that one can never anticipate what kind of musical quest he's going to take in any given situation”.
These days, almost two decades after Rolling Stone magazine first hailed him as 1992’s "Hot Jazz Artist", McBride is getting even more multi-dimensional. Plucking and bowing on both upright and electric bass, always grooving as well as improvising, the Juilliard-trained bassist and co-director of Harlem’s The Jazz Museum, as bandleader, while never outplaying his band members, does double duty in providing both rhythm and melody. His current approach, as heard on his and his band’s latest acclaimed release, Kind of Brown, may be to play his music “straight” and “inside” the harmonies, but his is not a tribute to old-school upbeat straight-ahead jazz with a strong bebop and swing feel.
Instead, McBride and his band, Inside Straight – featuring Steve Wilson delivering imaginative, eloquent alto/soprano saxophone, rising star vibraphonist Warren Wolf, superb pianist Peter Martin and fiercely versatile drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. – give their classic references fresh themes and a new vivacity that are plain sizzling hot.