Most jazz fans simply hear the name, “Christian McBride,” and they know they’re in for quality entertainment — regardless of the price of admission, or what’s playing. When the four-time Grammy-winning jazz bassist lucked onto the current trio with fellow multi-Grammy-winner Ulysses Owens Jr. (drums) and the eloquent young phenom Christian Sands (piano), a magical mystery tour developed — continuing to this day.
For the longest time, the Christian McBride Trio’s been trading soulful grooves on a number of unorthodox covers current and nostalgic in live performances from New York to L.A. and all around the globe on those coveted international jazz festivals. McBride’s more than mentioned the upcoming release of the trio’s long-anticipated live album as far back as February at Jazz Alley.
It’s finally coming to fruition, with a scheduled release date of September 18, 2015 on Mack Avenue Records. The Trio recorded Live At The Village Vanguard as a natural progression of McBride’s standing artist residency in the historic jazz club where he first appeared as a bandleader in 1995 just starting out. Village Vanguard owner Lorraine Gordon and artist McBride worked out a killer deal where he would come in for a week once a year with his quintet Inside Straight to play whatever they wanted. That was in 2007.
"Lorraine enjoyed my trio and my quintet, Inside Straight. We had such large crowds, so after a few years with such supportive audiences, we added an extra week,” McBride explained in a DL Media Music release. “Instead of doing the same band for two weeks, I just started bringing in a different band. This has been an ongoing relationship that I look forward to maintaining as long as I can."
The working band eventually settled on this remarkable trio. As young as Owens and Sands were, they were game to go with the flow and, more importantly, could hang with the immensely versatile McBride — not an easy feat.
McBride can go from lightning speed to excruciating stillness with the most distinctive, personable soul this side of Motown, and still call whatever he whips up on that bass pure jazz, his jazz, always worth listening to. Owens and Sands, as anyone who’s ever witnessed their live interaction, are always down with that.
“I realized that with guys like Ulysses and Christian, we can go anywhere we want to go: angular, swinging, esoteric, blues, impressionistic and funk,” McBride said.
In the new live album, the McBride Trio whips up a bountiful assortment of standards, pop/R&B covers — “The Lady In My Life,” which Michael Jackson made famous on his 1982 Thriller album — and original comps, totaling nine complete tracks.
McBride recognized the interpretive value in the Rod Temperton tune Jackson made famous. "If anyone can get over the fact that it's not 'a jazz tune,' they'd be able to notice that it's got one of the most gorgeous melodies," McBride marveled.
But when he went for the theme song from the 1977 movie, “Car Wash,” you know the one, his band mates thought he lost his mind. “This was one tune where even my band members looked at me side-eyes [laughs]," McBride admitted, adding, "Even my wife said, ‘So what's next? 'I Will Survive'?”
The songs off this new album will sound familiar to everyone who attended the trio’s gigs: Christian Sands’ thoughtful “Sand Dune,” the Ray Noble jazz standard “Cherokee,” Billie Holiday’s favorite, “Good Morning Heartache,” J.J. Johnson’s “Interlude,” Wes Montgomery’s “Fried Pies.”
And it’s all live, so even if you’ve never been to one gig, you will feel as if you have by the end of this recording.
“In trying to find repertoire for the trio in our early stages, I tried to come up with songs that were easy to learn and that you can put your own spin on them," McBride said.
Christian McBride (bass)
Ulysses Owens Jr. (drums)
Christian Sands (piano)
1. Fried Pies
2. Band Introduction
4. Sand Dune
5. The Lady in My Life
7. Good Morning Heartache
8. Down by the Riverside
9. Car Wash