I couldn’t let the Community Arts Program at Coral Gables Community Church go without a mention again today, because the great American jazz bassist Christian McBride closes out the series with his trio tonight.
McBride, 40, is one of the better-known contemporary jazz musicians, a worthy successor to Ray Brown and Charles Mingus who, like Mingus, has serious composing chops as well. He has a long list of recording credits as a bassist and a bass guitarist, and the sort of list of musical luminaries with whom he’s worked (James Brown, Sting, Kathleen Battle, Chick Corea and many more), not all from the jazz genre, that give his pedigree a broad, impressive appeal.
Besides his trio, McBride pilots a quintet called Inside Straight, an occasional group named A Christian McBride Situation, and most recently, the Christian McBride Big Band, which in a Grammy-winning album last year called “The Good Feeling,” showcased his trad-swing charts like “Bluesin’ in Alphabet City,” which can be heard here.
McBride, who hails from Philadelphia, studied his instrument with his bass-playing father and great-uncle, and then at Juilliard, and like Wynton Marsalis, he is performer, composer and jazz evangelist. He writes in a style congruent with the mainstream tradition of jazz and reinvigorates it with fresh energy.
Tonight’s performance features him with his trio, including pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. In this recording from the Viennese jazz club Porgy and Bess, the trio tackles Benny Golson’s “Killer Joe.”
After an impressive solo by Sands that starts with an obsessive repeated note, it’s McBride’s turn, and I like what he does here. The bass is an ungainly instrument that’s difficult to make sing, and many’s the bassist who will play some sort of variation of the accompaniment pattern he’s been using under the tune, down deep and hard to hear.
But McBride does his in the upper registers, and he plays a series of falling figures that outline harmonic motion and have the added pleasure of being memorable. That’s his strong compositional voice talking, and it’s also got a joyful sense of hard swing that keeps the tune going rather than stop it dead in its tracks like a lost driver looking for an exit.
According to his website, McBride’s performances for the rest of the year have him working with Corea, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Makato Ozone, but only a very occasional trio date, so that makes tonight’s performance even more special. Tickets for the 8 p.m. performance originally ranged from $30 to $45, but the higher-priced ones (according to the venue’s website) have been snapped up, with just the general seating lower-priced ducats still available.
That says good things about the knowingness of Miami’s jazz audiences, especially at the end of the summer season, when so many locals and tourists have gone somewhere else.
The Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ is located directly across from the Biltmore Hotel, at 3010 De Soto Blvd., Coral Gables; 305-448-7421, ext. 120; communityartsprogram.org.