Christian McBride – Conversations With Christian – Mack Avenue Records

by | Apr 29, 2022 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Mack Avenue Records releases a re-mastered vinyl of a Christian McBride duet album.

Christian McBride – Conversations With Christian – Mack Avenue Records MAC1050LP 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 76:21 ****1/2:

(Christian McBride – double bass; featuring collaborations with Angelique Kidjo – vocals; Regina Carter – violin; Sting – vocals, guitar; Eddie Palmieri – piano; Roy Hargrove – trumpet; Dr. Billy Taylor – piano; Dee Dee Bridgewater – vocals; Hank Jones – piano; George Duke – piano; Chick Corea – piano; Russell Malone – guitar; Ron Blake – tenor saxophone; Gina Gershon – jew’s harp). 

Duets are one of the purest forms of musical interaction. While not prolific in jazz annals, there have been several notable duet albums, including Chick Corea/Gary Burton (Crystal Silence), Pat Metheny/Charlie Haden (Beyond The Missouri Sky), The Tony Bennett Bill Evans Album and Herbie Hancock/Wayne Shorter (1 + 1). In 2011, bassist, composer Christian McBride recorded a compelling duet album, featuring a genre-stretching variety of performers that covered songs and improvisations. Mack Avenue Records has released a 180-gram double vinyl of this session. 

Side A opens with Afirika, as the bassist teams up with singer Angelique Kidjo. McBride lays down a propulsive double bass line as Kidjo adds her soulful vocal touch. Both performs bristle with rhythm and enthusiasm. It is uplifting and McBride’s solo is compelling. Violinist Regina Carter joins for a jazzy exploration of baroque classicism (“Fat Bach And Greens”). McBride begins with a bowed bass, and the jam transitions to unadulterated swing as both players cut loose with funky verve, before returning to the more structured arrangement. Rock vocalist Sting reprises “Consider Me Gone” (from Dream Of The Blue Turtles) with a vocal that displays his innate phrasing expertise. On the first duet with a pianist (Eddie Palmieri/“Guajeo Y Tumbao”), the duo explores syncopated Latin-infused motifs. McBride and Palmieri are in lockstep interacting in “call and response” riffs, with some engaging unison and counterpoint. 

Side B kicks off with trumpet legend Roy Hargrove. They distill festive ambiance on the Kismet standard, “Baubles, Bangles And Beads”. This song has become a staple of jazz recording with versions by Sinatra/Jobim, Gerry Mulligan, Wes Montgomery, Deodato, Zoot Sims and Sarah Vaughan. Both Hargrove and McBride execute a jaunty aesthetic and their solos are finger-snapping cool. As McBride switches again to bowed double bass in the intro, Dr. Billy Taylor brings a plaintive reverie to “Spiritual”. His delicate articulation is tender and contributes to the reflective mood. In a change of pace, singer Dee Dee Bridgewater and Christian bring a street-corner translation to the Isley Brothers’ hit, “It’s Your Thing”. They complement each other with agility and soulful urgency. Bridgewater gives an inspired, gritty performance. Side C is a veritable piano all-star team. Hank Jones’ sense of melody and gentle swing inhabit “Alone Together”. This straight ahead jazz number is the epitome of artistic integrity and coherence. It is certainly among the many highlights on the album. George Duke, widely acknowledged for his stellar keyboard work, cuts loose at the piano on “McDukey Blues”. He delivers up tempo blues riffs as McBride drives the rhythm. Both instrumentalists capture the ferocity of improvisation. Chick Corea and McBride revisit “Tango Improvisation #1” (from Crystal Silence) with an aura of impromptu gravitas. At over 9 minutes, there is room for musical exploration and ethereal spacing. Corea mixes in various shades of jazz and Neo-classicism in another memorable performance.

Guitarist Russel Malone exhibits a smooth bluesy delivery on “Sister Rosa”. McBride matches the flexible instrumental finesse, It is lyrical and the two players are adroit at both solos and counterpoint backing. Tenor saxophonist Ron Blake adds a muscular tonality to “Shake ’n’ Bake”. McBride’s precise tempo is relentless and his solos are exhilarating.Their unison work is excellent. The finale is an oddly titled (even for a jazz album) number (“Chitlins And Gefiltefish”) that features the unlikely pairing of double bass and jew’s harp (Gina Gershon). There are talking blues “discourses”, framed in playful banter.

Conversations With Christian is a bold jazz statement with listenable tracks. McBride’s ability to effortlessly communicate with a diverse group of musicians is extraordinary. This re-mastered 180-gram double vinyl has a pristine sound mix. The pressing is top-notch with no detectable surface noise, hisses or pops.

Side A: Afrika; Fat Bach And Greens; Consider Me Gone; Guajeo Y Tumbao
Side B: Baubles, Bangles And Beads; Spiritual; It’s Your Thing
Side C: Alone Together; McDukey Blues; Tango Improvisation #1
Side D: Sister Rosa; Shake ’n’ Blake; Chitlins And Gefiltefish. 

—Robbie Gerson


Album Cover for Christian McBride - Conversations With Christian


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