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With his “upstanding” career, host of NPR’s Jazz Night in America and second director of the Newport Jazz Festival Christian McBride certainly deserves his spot as WICN’s Artist of the Month. Beginning as a child prodigy and quickly evolving to reliable sideman in his teens, Christian McBride played with some of the top names in jazz, until of course, his was added to that list. Now, he’s a favorite among many jazz lovers - new and old.

As a performance art, jazz is all about collaboration, an area in which upright bassist McBride (1972-present) excels. Not many musicians have had the opportunity to work with legends like Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson and Freddie Hubbard… or modern giants like Diana Krall, Pat Metheny and Wynton Marsalis. It is impossible to describe McBride’s career without realizing the vast array of musicians with whom he has musically intersected. Simply put, he’ll play anything with anyone, and by doing this, McBride has expanded the limits of what’s possible across all genres under the big jazz umbrella. From swing and blues to crossover and avant-garde jazz, his flexibility and agility truly make him the quintessential ‘jazz cat’.

Growing up in Philadelphia, McBride was surrounded by the cultural imprint of R&B and soul. He picked up the bass from his father and uncle and moved to New York pursuing that ‘big break’ while enrolling in The Julliard School. McBride found that he could not balance his upcoming opportunities with his educational curriculum, so he chose to join saxophonist Bobby Watson’s group and never went back to school. Later, after recording his first debut album with Verve, Gettin’ to It (1995), McBride met with one of his childhood heroes, pop artist James Brown, who would be one the greatest influences in his life. Around the same time, upright bassist Ray Brown proved to be a great mentor to McBride. They formed a group with John Clayton, one of Brown’s other mentees, called SuperBass, releasing albums in 1997 and 2001.

“Gettin’ to It” (1995)

“Blue Monk” (1997)

“Papa Was A Rolling Stone” (2001)

After his work with Ray Brown, McBride took on many other projects as a sideman. One might say his extensive collaboration with creative guitarist Pat Metheny, and equally as talented drummer Antonio Sanchez, was a solid footnote in McBride’s emerging legacy.

“Live in Lugano, Switzerland” (2004)

As the name “McBride” was thrown around, it became clear that his musicianship would help him expand to become a full-fledged band leader. Instead of looking for gigs to play, McBride was now in the spotlight and in a position to hire choice musicians for his bands. Forming his quintet Inside Straight, McBride made the album Kind of Brown (2009) with label Mack Avenue and the talent of Steve Wilson on saxophone, Warren Wolf Jr. on vibraphone, Eric Reed on piano, and Carl Allen on drums. If it was listened to during the sixties, no one would have known Kind of Brown was released in 2009. Soon, McBride formed his Big Band, and won a Grammy for “Best Large Ensemble Album” with The Good Feeling (2011).

“Brother Mister” (2009)

“The Shade of the Cedar Tree” (2011)

Even after all this success, McBride kept “gettin’ to it!” He formed yet another group, the Christian McBride Trio with pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens. McBride won another Grammy for “Best Improvised Jazz Solo” with the song ‘Cherokee’ on the refreshing hard bop album Live at the Village Vanguard (2015). (It’s important to note that the Village Vanguard is a famous jazz club in New York, a spot where John Coltrane had played many gigs in the 1960s.)  Soon after releasing that album, McBride got back to recording with his big band recently and released another hit album called Bringin’ It (2017).

“Cherokee” (2015)

“Gettin’ to It” (2017)

It’s no wonder jazz superstar Christian McBride has become a fan favorite. He’s got the chops, the props, and the passion to continue to resonate with a wide audience and demographic. From the streets of Philadelphia to the gateway of global fame, McBride has earned his spot among history’s best jazz musicians, and this is just the beginning.

Credit: Garrett Mandeville, Intern
Endicott College, Class of 2021


Previous 2018 Artist of the Month:

May: Miles Davis

April: Billie Holiday

March: Eliane Elias

February: Nina Simone

January: Milton Jackson


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