- Phil Freeman
Christian McBride is one of the most widely recorded bass players in jazz. He’s been on more than 300 albums as a sideman, and has won six Grammys. This year alone, he’s put out three major projects. In February, he released The Movement Revisited, a large-scale project that paints sonic portraits of Black political and cultural icons Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama, mixing orchestral jazz with narration. It was first put together in 1998, covering just the first four people, and then revised a decade later, adding a fifth section about Obama and generally rewriting the whole piece. In July, he appeared on saxophonist Joshua Redman’s album RoundAgain, with Brad Mehldau on piano and Brian Blade on drums. This was the same set of players who made Redman’s album MoodSwing in 1994, which I remember was one of the first jazz albums I bought by a young musician; before that, I was mostly buying classic old albums by players who were either dead or long past their prime. And finally, he made For Jimmy, Wes And Oliver, a big band album with guests Joey DeFrancesco on organ and Mark Whitfield on guitar, which is coming out this week.
Obviously, a guy like McBride, who’s played with basically everyone, has a million stories to tell. I particularly wanted to ask him about one show that I saw him at, which was Sonny Rollins’ 80th birthday concert at the Beacon Theatre 10 years ago, where they were joined by Ornette Coleman and Roy Haynes. And believe me, he has stories about Rollins. And beyond making music and talking about music, he’s also the artistic director for the Newport Jazz Festival, and he his wife run a jazz program for kids in New Jersey, Jazz House Kids, so we talk about how that’s been impacted by COVID-19 and what they see as the future of the program and of jazz education. Something else interesting is that he’s an interviewer himself – he hosts a radio show where he talks to other jazz musicians. So we talk a little bit about that, too.
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Music heard in this episode:
Christian McBride Big Band, “Night Train” (For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver)
Joshua Redman, “Silly Little Love Song” (RoundAgain)