Christian McBride & Inside Straight – Kind of Brown – Mack Avenue MAC 1047LP- Limited Edition 210 gram! audiophile vinyl ****:
(Christian McBride, doublebass; Steve Wilson, saxophone; Warren Wolf, Jr., vibes; Eric Scott Reed, piano; Carl Allen, drums)
When Mack Avenue decided to enter the audiophile LP market, they decided to go first class in both recording and engineering of Christian McBride’s straight ahead quintet Inside Straight. Recording engineer Joe Ferla recorded the band at the legendary Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. The recording was mixed on a Neve console at Avatar’s Studio C in New York due to its ability to reproduce the doublebass. Sony’s ace mastering engineer, Mark Wilder, mastered the recording at Sony’s studio. Next the finished master was given to Ray Janos at Sterling Sound to create an acetate reference disc on a Neumann VMS 80 lathe outfitted with Prism converters. United Record Pressing manufactured the LPs in virgin vinyl 210 gram weight..
(I believe that’s the highest-mass audiophile pressing around. Most standard LPs are 115-120 grams, and audiophile pressings are usually 180 grams. The jury is out on whether all this improves fidelity. The Electrical Audio forum claims it’s the standard American "bigger is better" sales pitch. The grooves are basically the same depth though there is more mass which may improve sonics. If flat to begin with the heavier pressings are less likely to warp, but since they require more cooling time in the press and don’t always get it, they may be more likely to be warped right out of the press. Another approach to this has been taken by a couple audiophile vinyl labels now offering discs recorded only on one side – no grooves on the opposite side means less mass, I guess. Remember, thicker discs also change your tonearm’s VTA – it’s up to you whether that requires any adjustments. Talk about audiophilia nervosa!…Ed.)
McBride’s group does justice to Mack Avenue’s efforts to reproduce the sheen of Warren Wolf’s vibes, as well as Steve Wilson’s warm alto sax tone and the cohesion of the crack rhythm section. By stretching the session into a double LP format with less crowding of the grooves, the listener will get a workout changing sides; and some LP sides are as short as twelve minutes. (Imagine if they had put out a 45 rpm version…) (I think that would have been even better than the 210 gram 33⅓ discs…Ed.)
Out of the ten tracks, McBride wrote seven compositions and added Freddie Hubbard’s “Theme for Kareem”, Eric Reed’s “Pursuit of Peace”, and one standard, “Where are You?”. McBride dedicates the album to his mentor Freddie Hubbard, who had passed away approximately six months before this session was recorded. Also to Tony Reedus, the superb drummer, who died at the young age of 49, just one month before Freddie.
Some of my favorite tracks on Kind of Brown include the aggressively boppish “Stick and Move”, the soulful “Used ‘Ta Could”, and the tribute to Cedar Walton, “The Shade of the Cedar Tree.” “Where are You?” is done as a gorgeous ballad with pianist, Eric Reed. The inclusion of newcomer Warren Wolf’s vibes brings to mind Bobby Hutcherson’s Blue Note groups of the late 1960s, but with a more prominent role for the bandleader’s bass. For me, I especially liked Christian’s return to straight ahead jazz from recent forays into electronics and funk and fusion. Christian was considered the hottest mainstream bassist in the early 1990s, being compared to Ray Brown, and even Paul Chambers. For my taste, I’m glad that he has returned to the fold with this session as well as on New York Time, which he made in 2006 for Chesky Records.
Come to Kind of Brown for its high vinyl production values and you’ll stay for McBride’s all-star quality quintet playing high-end mainstream jazz.
Side 1: Brother Mister, Theme for Kareem
Side 2: Rainbow Wheel, Starbeam, Used ‘Ta Could
Side 3: The Shade of the Cedar Tree, Pursuit of Peace
Side 4: Uncle James, Stick and Move, Where Are You?
— Jeff Krow