Christian McBride delivers a rhythm push in Live at the Village Vanguard
American bassist and bandleader Christian McBride, now 49, zigzags between brilliant acoustic modern jazz and powerful underground funk. He first recorded in 1990 with the late trumpeter and Miles Davis assistant Wallace Roney, and now his nearly 300 album credits range from Grammy-winning albums with jazz greats to sessions with Paul McCartney, Queen Latifah and James Brown.
This album features the Inside Straight quintet which McBride debuted at New York’s Village Vanguard in 2007 and where, save for Covid, he’s played a December residency ever since – “if you’re ever in New York in December , please join us,” McBride wrote on the sleeve.
This set, from 2014, captures the band relishing each other’s company and stretching happily after a year-long hiatus – “I haven’t had a chance to play with these guys since the day of the ‘An,” McBride announces two numbers. its name suggests, Inside Straight delivers the clear structures, deep solos and driving rhythms of contemporary mainstream jazz. All the compositions are original, and the first line of sax and vibes combines grain and sonic warmth. But it’s McBride’s rounded tone and rhythmic thrust, paired with the band’s exuberant precision, that makes the album stand out.
The performance begins with “Sweet Bread”, an easy mix of meandering theme and modal jazz written by vibraphone player Warren Wolf. Next comes the leader’s “Fair Hope Theme,” played at a medium lope, then the delicate complexity of “Ms Angelou,” written by Steve Wilson as a feature for his soprano sax.
Elsewhere, Wilson’s abrasive mastery of alto sashays on the thrust of “The Shade of the Cedar Tree” and peaks on Wolf’s bluesy, fuguelike construction “Gang Gang”; here, Wolf’s vibes shimmer and hook. Pianist Peter Martin’s two-handed independence brings the ‘Uncle James’ waltz to life.
The speed of light draws closer, McBride’s “Stick and Move” finds the frontman’s fingerpicked bass duel with Carl Allen’s crash-and-splash drums. Hand in hand throughout the set, they bring the evening to its climax.
‘Christian McBride and Inside Straight live at the Village Vanguard‘ is published by Mack Avenue