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