Christian McBride: Playing inside

A man of many talents; Christian McBride. Submitted photo.

Christian McBride is many things: a renowned jazz bassist, bandleader,

outspoken advocate for the arts, educator, artistic director, composer. Friday

at the Jazz Kitchen, he may wear all of those hats as he performs two shows

with one of his latest projects, Inside Straight.

Wanting to lead a group tailored more to the

traditional jazz linchpins of nimble instrumentation and husky grooves, Inside

Straight came together when McBride teamed with pianist Eric Reed, alto

saxophonist Steve Wilson and drummer Carl Allen. Their debut, 2009's Kind of Brown, brims with dexterous

flights of fancy and supple, pastel melodies. It's another

fine turn for a 30-something musician who's made a

name for himself not only as a solo artist but in contributing to projects by

artists in a variety of genres. He's collaborated with Herbie

Hancock and Pat Metheny from the jazz world, Isaac

Hayes and Natalie Cole in R&B, James Brown in soul, Sting and Don Henley in

pop and Queen Latifah and The Roots in hip-hop.

When he's not

performing music, the Philadelphia-bred McBride is a well-regarded spokesman

for it.He's served as artistic director of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Sessions

and co-director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. In 2005, McBride was

named as a creative chair for jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic


McBride took time for an email interview shortly

before his Indianapolis dates.

NUVO: How much did your father and

great-uncle influence you musically?


They were the first musicians I ever heard in person, so they had a huge

influence on me musically. Specifically, my father (Lee Smith) was the reason I

wanted to play bass, my great-uncle (Howard Cooper) is

the reason I wanted to play jazz.

NUVO: What were your earliest memories of music?

McBride: My

earliest memories of music are listening to my mother's records. A lot of soul and R&B recordings are the backbone of my

childhood. Having so many people in my family in the music business, I was

always going to live shows, so I don't remember

exactly what my first concert was.

NUVO: How do you balance being so many things — a

composer, a sideman, a music educator, a curator, etc.?

McBride: Not

very well. It's a challenging, but fun job. Balancing

professional responsibilities are just part of the job. Add being a husband,

son, mentor and friend.

NUVO: How important is it for you to advocate for the arts?


With arts funding becoming more scarce every day, it's important for anyone who appreciates the arts to speak up, not just

professional musicians.

NUVO: How much has collaborating with artists outside jazz influenced your

own music?

McBride: As

I mentioned earlier, R&B and soul music is the backbone of my life, so for

me to collaborate with musicians "outside" of jazz has never been a foreign idea to me or anyone of my generation.

I believe most musicians of my generation have had so-called "outside" influences in their music.

NUVO: What was on your mind the first time Inside Straight got on stage at

the Village Vanguard?

McBride: I

never planned on the group that became Inside Straight to become a full-time

working band, but everyone involved — musicians

and fans alike — seemed to want the group to stay together after

that first Vanguard engagement, so almost four years later, we're still a unit.

NUVO: Did you ever think this project would last this long?


That's a tough question to answer. I never have preconceived expiration dates

on any group. It ends when it ends.

NUVO: Are you working on any new music with Inside Straight or any other


McBride: I

have three recordings in the pipeline — a

recording of 13 duets with many of my friends including Chick Corea, Angelique Kidjo, Gina Gershon, Regina Carter, the late Dr. Billy Taylor and Hank

Jones among many others. My first big band recording is due for release in the

fall, and my first extended composition,

The Movement, Revisited, is due for release in 2012.


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