By Joy Childs
Sentinel Contributing Writer
It would seem that there’s nothing bassist Christian McBride can’t do on a bass. Whether soloing or leading his equally gifted band, Inside Straight, McBride thumps and bumps, plucks and struts his sizeable hands across the bass-he’s a true virtuoso.
He’s played every form of jazz with practically everyone. From his bass godfather, Ray Brown (of whom he remarked, “Ray Brown left a whole lotta bass playing for us to figure out), and big brother, John Clayton to smooth jazz artists Chris Botti, Diana Krall, Sting; and from jazz fusion legends like Chick Corea and George Duke to straight-ahead jazz masters Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner-McBride has crossed over and back again through a variety of musical genres.
Thankfully, it was the straight-ahead style of mentor Brown (whose widow, “his other mom, Cecilia Brown,” was in attendance) that McBride invoked in his recent Catalina Bar and Grill appearance. He admitted early on that most of the set would come from his last CD, 2009’s “Kind of Brown,” ostensibly his tribute to Ray Brown. So along with Inside Straight-Peter Martin (piano), Carl Allen (drums), Steve Wilson (sax) and Warren Wolfe (vibes)-the _ber-bassist from Philly, who’s not yet 40, launched the set with the set with an updated, very confident version of a long-lost Hubbard gem, “Theme for Kareem” (appearing on 1978’s “Super Blue”), which the trumpet giant wrote for his giant basketball buddy, Abdul-Jabbar. Hubbard’s original, featuring Ron Carter on bass, is stellar, as was this version, which saw each band member’s solo blazing a trail through the bebop chops.
From there it was a McBride doing virtually every imaginable bass lick (and some not even thought of yet) on his bass solo opening on “Starbeam,” “Sophisticated Lady” and “Brother Mister,” which he explained was how James Brown greeted Black men he was meeting for the first time. A steady swinging groove, the tune ended with McBride magnificently trading fours with his long-time drummer, Carl Allen.
McBride told the audience that the last piece would have them imagining “a plate of chittlins . . . and collard greens . . . and peach cobbler . . . and mac and cheese . . . and neckbones and candied yams (these last two a reference to Brother Mister’s “Make It Funky”-with whom he funked back in the day).
And on “Used Ta Could,” with its 3/4 time signature, Martin’s gospely piano touches, Wilson’s sax preaching à la Stanley Turrentine, Wolfe’s able vibing and McBride’s hearty bowing, you really were reminded of the last soul-food feast you went to. A tasty treat, indeed.
Those of you in urgent need of a new Christian McBride CD, don’t despair. He says he’s “got three CDs in the can”: one CD consists of 13 duets; another, his first big band CD; and a third featuring a gospel choir and a big band recorded in Detroit to be released some time next year.