Jazz Star McBride To Rock Iron Horse
By by BRETT BREHM, Contributing Writer
Pick out a handful of contemporary jazz albums at random, and there's a good chance you'll find bassist Christian McBride on more than one of them. McBride, who will perform with his band at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Wednesday, Sept. 20. has appeared on over 100 albums since bursting onto the scene in 1989 with saxophonist Bobby Watson.

To gain experience as an aspiring young jazz bassist, Christian McBride resolved to play in as many unfamiliar musical settings as possible. This initial courage and ambition propelled him to the forefront of the jazz community, where today he is widely regarded as one of the most versatile young bassists on the scene.

For his Iron Horse date, McBride, who plays both electric and acoustic bass, will be joined by a group of like-minded young virtuosos: Ron Blake on sax, Shedrick Mitchell on keys and Kareem Riggins on drums. The group will perform tunes from McBride's latest album, "Sci Fi." The album features several originals by McBride that have a feel and groove reminiscent of the jazz-rock era of the '70s and early '80s.

Those familiar with Herbie Hancock's monumental jazz-rock album, "Head Hunters," will certainly dig "Sci Fi." McBride's song "Via Mwandishi" harkens back to Hancock's influential fusion band of the early '70s, while "Havona" pays tribute to the late, great bassist Jaco Pastorius and the "Weather Report" band, another big group in the fusion movement.

With "Sci Fi," McBride also delves into the popular music arena by including songs by Steely Dan and the Police. His creative arrangements of familiar rock and pop standards always bring new life to recognizable, standard rock songs. In "A Family Affair," one of McBride's earlier albums, he focused on rhythm and blues, fusing jazz elements with R&B tunes by Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, Kool and the Gang and Earth Wind & Fire. The album garnered praise from jazz critics and, like "Head Hunters," succeeded in bringing together two different musical genres with effective results. These albums stand out as testaments to McBride's remarkable versatility.

McBride started playing the bass when he was eight years old. Growing up in Philadelphia, he was influenced by jazz and by the R&B bands his father played in. While he studied classical bass in high school, he also pursued jazz. His success in high school won him a scholarship to the Juilliard School.

After the first year, however, he found it difficult to balance his studies with all the playing he was doing with jazz groups in New York. It's remarkable that at the age of 17, McBride was able to perform as much as he did in New York, a difficult place to make it as a musician.

After working with established jazz musicians Bobby Watson and Freddie Hubbard, McBride started playing with Joshua Redman, an aspiring young saxophonist just out of Harvard University. It was through Redman's group that McBride began to gain the widespread recognition that he enjoys today. The group played straight-ahead jazz, compositions by Redman and McBride and some progressive jazz. Their albums won the praise of critics for the outstanding young talent they showcased.

Expect to hear jazz, but also rock, funk and R&B at McBride's performance. His experience and his innovation should make the show a memorable experience.

Issue 02, Submitted 2000-09-13 15:56:46