Christian McBride – Conversations With Christian – Mack Avenue Records MAC 1050, 76:29 ****:
Christian McBride, the boss of the bass, has released a new disc, which is as far removed as possible from his last CD with his big band entitled The Good Feeling. This latest project is a series of duets with a wide range of artists from both the jazz and non-jazz world, and accordingly confirms his place in the pantheon of jazz performers.
Of the thirteen tracks on the disc, most are instrumentals, but there are three vocal cuts including those with Angelique Kidjo, Sting, and Dee Dee Bridgewater. In the case of the latter, Bridgewater offers a get-down version of the Isley Brothers funk anthem “It’s Your Thing”. Sting’s ventures into the jazz world have not always been successful, but on the Reba McEntire hit “Consider Me Gone”, he delivers a world-weary take on the tune.
The bass and piano have always had a symbiotic relationship and the results are conspicuous on this disc with five piano tracks forming the heart of this project. Eddie Palmieri takes the lead with a Latin flavour on “Guajeo Y Tumbao” followed by an introspective Dr. Billy Taylor on “Spiritual” which has some wonderful arco playing by McBride that bookends the tune. Hank Jones delivers an up-tempo “Alone Together” in his usual understated unhurried style. Both Taylor and Jones passed away in 2010, and thus these cuts were among the last recording these two piano giants made. George Duke romps through “McDukey Blues” and Chick Corea delves into an Argentinean tango form on “Tango Improvisation #1”. Finally for a study in contrasts, listen to tenor man Ron Blake on “Shake ’N Blake” with its internal harmonic changes, compared to the version presented on The Good Feeling where Blake and the band are in explosive swing mode. [And then there’s my favorite—the hilarious closer with actress Gina Gershon on juice harp: “Chitlins and Gefiltefish”…Ed.]
Christian McBride has delivered a disc full of style and substance that should find a readymade audience and acclaim.
TrackList: Afirika; Fat Bach And Greens; Consider Me Gone; Guajeo Y Tumbao; Baubles, Bangles And Beads; Spiritual; It’s Your Thing; Alone Together; McDukey Blues; Tango Improvisation #1; Sister Rosa; Shake ‘N Blake; Chitlins And Gefiltefish.
A 10-year anniversary of Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society gets a welcome vinyl upgrade.