Christian McBride & Inside Straight – Live At The Village Vanguard – Mack Avenue Music Group MAC1192LP 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 79:45 ****1/2:
(Christian McBride – double bass; Steve Wilson – alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Warren Wolf – vibes; Peter Martin – piano; Carl Allen – drums)
Christian McBride is a unique force in the jazz world. As a young prodigy, the Philadelphia bassist and (double bass and electric) played with Bennie Golson, Bobby Watson, George Duke, Milt Jackson, Hank Jones, Pat Metheny, Bruce Hornsby, J.J. Jackson, Roy Hargrove, Benny Green and Joshua Redman to name a few. As a sideman, McBride has appeared on over 300 albums. Additionally, he recorded with John McLaughlin, Chick Core, Vinnie Colaiuta and Kenny Garrett as a fusion supergroup (Five Peace Band). Their 2010 self-titled album won a Grammy (one of four for McBride). As a band leader, this Julliard-trained bassist leads a mind-boggling five jazz groups, most notably the quintet Inside Straight.
Since 2009, McBride has enjoyed a “residency” at Village Vanguard in New York every year. Mack Avenue Music Group has released a 180-gram double vinyl, recorded in 2014. Christian McBride & Inside Straight – Live At The Village Vanguard is a multi-textured post-bop celebration of original live acoustic music with lengthy jams. Side A kicks off with a lively number, “Sweet Bread”. After a paired unison vibes and alto intro, the full quintet kicks in with swing flourish. Warren Wolf handles the first solo with a fluid, shimmering run, as McBride, Peter Martin and Carl Allen back in lockstep. Steve Wilson follows with silky, rhythmic wailing. Martin is equally adroit, mixing chords and notation with excellent timing and phrasing. Then it closes with drum flair countered by full band dynamics. “Fair Hope Theme” shares some of these arrangement structures with an uplifting piano solo. Wilson and Wolf keep things energetic, and at the 8:47 mark McBride shines on a stylish trademark double bass solo.
In a change of pace, Side B opens with an atmospheric piece (“Ms. Angelou”) dedicated to this iconic American poet. Wilson floats around the tender melody with supple intonation. Wolf’s judicious precision on vibes leads into the ethereal flow of Martin’s piano. McBride and Allen maintain the nuanced tempo. Reverting back to medium swing, “Shade Of The Cedar Tree” is up tempo and features sprightly play from all flour instrumentalists who intermingle seamlessly. Side C consists of one sweeping composition (“Gang Gang”) that clocks in at just under 15 minutes. Wolf begins with a straight ahead vamp-like riff that is framed by percussion. Then there is a fierce transition to a fresh take on waltz time. The quintet is operating at peak form and the various motifs and tempo shifts are compelling. Martin shows off his range from rollicking blues to classical and engages in a memorable exchange with Allen. The concluding pair of songs showcase the versatility of this ensemble. On “Uncle James”, 3/4 time is more relaxed. Here, the instrumental soloists exude a late 60’s early 70’s feeling with bluesy, crisp runs. McBride injects subtle changes to the flow that are emphatic and facilitate the unique modulations. In a no-holds-barred finale that invokes the freneticism of bebop, “Stick And Move” is nothing short of exhilarating. McBride’s dazzling solo trades with Allen are engaging.
Christian McBride & Inside Straight – Live At The Village Vanguard takes its place among the great albums (including those by John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins) recorded at this historic venue. The overall sound mix is vibrant with excellent stereo separation.The vinyl gatefold packaging is top-notch with an appealing cover illustration.
Side A: Sweet Bread; Fair Hope Theme
Side B: Ms. Angelou; Shade Of The Cedar Tree
Side C: Gang Gang
Side D: Uncle James; Stick & Move.