Review: Christian McBride at Jazz Kitchen


Christian McBride's Inside Straight Quintet was a Quartet

on Sunday, as there was trouble delivering the vibraphonist by plane to

Indianapolis. The music was still plenty full, and though the set was comprised

of a few long, extended numbers, it contained great variety.

In Mingus fashion, McBride showed that he was able to switch between different

bass-playing roles at the drop of a hat. At one moment, he was engrossed in a

melodic solo over a slow two-feel. The next, he drove the whole band with a

double-time walk. He was a free spirit on one number and just supplied the

foundation on the next.

The best showcase of

McBride's technical prowess was Ellington's leisurely ballad "Sophisticated

Lady," which he opened with a solo of hammer-ons, arpeggios and slides that

sounded like bends. His facility with these techniques on a full-scale upright

would have matched another virtuoso playing on an electric.

Drummer Carl Allen and pianist Peter Martin made a game of obscuring the

downbeat with orchestrated syncopations. On top of this, McBride always played

way out in front. Thanks to these choices by the rhythm section, the faster

numbers really cooked, especially "Stick n' Move," an all-out Steve Wilson

feature. Wilson's alto style was completely his own: he held onto the quarter

notes of the rhythm section and radiated warmth with major modes and tonic.

Without this warmth, there would have been no relief from nasty substitutions

by Martin and McBride.

The Inside Straight redefined what is meant by a 'bass-driven' band. When the

bass played ahead of 1, the drummer did not illuminate 1 but rather further

obscured it. Conversely, when the bass played a substitution on tonic, the alto

played tonic to fill out the sound. McBride drove in whichever direction he

wanted, and the band gave you just enough of the tune to hang on.


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