Christian McBride - Kind Of Brown

album review

Mack Avenue

Release date: June 16th 2009

Availability: CD, MP3 Download

 Christian McBride: Kind Of Brown cover

Christian McBride, still just 37, has achieved so much in the twenty years since, as a seventeen year old, he was recruited into Freddie Hubbard's band that he can create just about any jazz project that he likes. High profile stints as accompanist with Sting and James Brown have run alongside leading his own jazz/funk fusion outfit, "The Christian McBride Band." More recently he has joined John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Kenny Garrett and Brian Blade in the high profile fusion group "Five Peace Band".

Yet his straight ahead jazz roots are re-emerging with a confidence that draws strength from these more popular orientated successes. His recording and touring with Pat Metheny and Antonio Sanchez in the trio that produced "Day Trip" and "Tokyo Day Trip" has already hinted at this direction, as indeed did the earlier invitation to appear on acoustic bass in 2001 in John Scofield's 'dream band' on "Works For Me".

The band on "Kind Of Brown" - Christian McBride (acoustic bass), Steve Wilson (saxophone), Eric Scott Reed (piano), Warren Wolf, Jr. (vibraphone), Carl Allen (drums) – was assembled in 2007 at the request of Village Vanguard Club owner Lorraine Gordon who told Christian McBride: "You're always welcome to come down here and play the Vanguard, but I don't want you to bring that rock 'n' roll band you play with!"

 Christian McBride photo
Christian McBride & Inside Straight

The opportunity to put together a straight ahead jazz band led to invitations to Steve Wilson, leader on a number of well thought of albums on Criss Cross; Eric Reed, best known for his work with Wynton Marsalis; Carl Allen, who had worked with Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw and who had partnered Christian McBride on the Donald Harrison album "For Art's Sake" back in 1990; and newcomer Warren Wolf, who Christian McBride had tutored back in 2000 at the annual Jazz Aspen Snowmass Band Academy. The sets at the Vanguard were such a success that plans were made for this album and a 2009 tour. And the search for a name that eventually settled on "Inside Straight", an apt description of the straight ahead, very much 'inside' approach of the band.

Produced by Christian McBride with ten of his original compositions, "Kind Of Brown" is a masterwork of upbeat, straight ahead jazz with a strong bebop feel and swing. For once, the much syndicated All Music review misses the point of the title of the album in claiming that the reference is not to the music of Ray Brown but to that of the Bobby Hutcherson / Harold Land group of the '70s. An easy enough assumption to make with the emphasis on "Kind Of Brown" on saxophone and vibraphone.

But bass player Ray Brown, who died in 2002, was a decided influence on the young Christian McBride; they recorded two albums together, "Super Bass" in 1996 and "Super Bass 2" in 2000. More importantly, perhaps, Ray Brown made a series of seminal albums for OJC with vibes payer Milt Jackson ("Montreux '77", "Bag's Bag", "All Too Soon" "A London Bridge", "Memories of Thelonious Sphere Monk"……). And Milt Jackson was Bobby Hutcherson's role model. Not surprising, then, that the Milt Jackson/ Ray Brown connection might have been missed.

So, "Kind Of Brown" is clearly a tribute to Ray Brown and a very significant musical legacy that is in danger of being forgotten.

Ray Brown was there at the very start of bebop, playing and recording with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie. He married Ella Fitzgerald and ran an orchestra that recorded with her. He worked with Oscar Peterson. In the 90's he was influential in highlighting new jazz talent through his "Some of My Best Friends Are….." series of albums, inviting Geoffrey Keezer, Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove and Nicolas Payton, among many others, to play on his albums.

References to the jazz tradition aside, "Kind Of Brown" is simply one of the best jazz albums of recent years. Warren Wolf's vibe playing is a real discovery. Christian McBride, the most gifted bass player of his generation, is the creative bedrock on which this fine group of musicians achieves so much.

For sure, Ray Brown would have approved.

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Christian McBride: Kind Of Brown cover

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Christian McBride discussing "Kind Of Brown" on video here.

Conversations With Christian podcast
One of Christian McBride's projects for 2009 is to have conversations with key jazz players and then produce a duo recording session with each. A Mack Avenue release of selected material is planned for later in 2009. The free podcasts present both audio and video material. Chick Corea, Roy Hargrove, Hank Jones, Anjelique Kidjo so far......

Conversations With Christian podcast image

Christian McBride - Conversations with Christianfree

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1 comment:

yujine said...

So, Ray Brown's been passed away. I was in love with the Modern Jazz Quartet during 60es. Last time I heard Milt Jackson was in SF. He was jaggling two stick, sometimes four of them, nicely. Is he appearing in NY sometime?