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Christian McBride Throws Down

By Published: May 23, 2006

AAJ: What does the phrase "Philly Soul mean to you?

CM: Having come up in the R&B scene and the jazz scene in Philadelphia, "Philly Soul for me stretches along a pretty broad boundary line: It means obviously, I think the most general terminology that people think of (Kenny) Gamble and (Leon) Huff and Teddy Pendergrass and The Delfonics, that kind of thing. But to me it also means guys like the great saxophonists Tony Williams and Grover Washington Jr. and all of the great jazz musicians from Philly: Bootsie Barnes, the late Eddie Green, people like Trudy Pitts and Mr. C, that also means "Philly Soul to me, as well as Gamble and Huff.

Jones, Wooden & Jackson

AAJ: You once said about Quincy Jones: "Q studies people and figures out what to do with them like a great basketball coach. How did you coach your band through the two jam sessions on CDs two and three of Live at Tonic?

CM: I think most great bandleaders—at least what I've experienced—most great bandleaders are ones that give you just enough direction to kind of get what they want out of the music but also to give you as little direction as possible, just to let you be yourself. I think with most great basketball coaches, they're able to see what a person's strengths are and really kind of let them fly and produce on their strengths, as opposed to trying to make them do something that they're not really that great at.

I think that as a bandleader you kind of take a look at the field and you see what each musician does, and what you feel are their strengths, and you kind of let them do that. As opposed to saying, 'Well, you play great ballads. Well, this isn't really a ballad band—I want you to start playing more faster things.' That really wouldn't be a good coach. So after working with Quincy Jones and just looking at his history, I think he's been able to do the same thing.

AAJ: Who in your opinion have been the greatest college coach, and the greatest pro basketball coach, of your lifetime?

CM: Hmm... greatest college coach. That's kinda hard. I would have to say John Wooden, maybe, for college. Greatest pro coach? Hmm... dare I say, Phil Jackson? I know the argument is that, 'Well, he had Michael Jordan, therefore anybody could have coached the Bulls and won the title.' But I don't think so. Doug Collins also coached Jordan and they didn't get to the Finals.

AAJ: And then he went and did it with a completely different team, with the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. But, I'm a 76ers lifer, so I'm a Lakers hater. Sort of comes with the territory, you know?

CM: Yeah, I've explained to many people: Being born in Philadelphia, you're kind of born hating the Boston Celtics, the Dallas Cowboys, the Atlanta Braves and the New Jersey Devils.

Christian McBride

AAJ: If you were Billy King for one day, and could get a starting player and top ten draft pick in exchange, would you trade Allen Iverson?

CM:Well, let me say if I were Billy King, I would resign! I would step down! But anyway, top five pick and a starter, would I trade A.I.? Probably.

And the only reason I say that is because I absolutely love Allen Iverson. I think he's been probably the most game athlete probably in any major sport since he's been on the scene. You just watch all the heart he plays with, and the fire and the passion. It bothers me that it's been very difficult to find a group of guys to kind of put around him to get the Sixers over the hump. Obviously the closest they came was the 2000 Finals.

But it just kinda bothers me that throughout the years the Sixers have had some pretty good teams that actually, probably could have gotten the Sixers over the hump had they stuck with them for awhile. You look at the long list of guys who were supposed to. Each season: 'OK, this is the perfect guy who's going to compliment AI.' I'm speaking of Toni Kukoc, at one point they had Larry Hughes, then it's Keith Van Horn, then it's Glenn Robinson, then it's Derrick Coleman. They're like, 'Oh no, no, no, we got it wrong last season, but this is the guy who's really gonna...' Matt Harpring, Kyle Korver—you know, 'We need a guy who can shoot some three pointers.' Then it's defense: 'We'll go out and get (Dikembe) Mtumbo,' and 'Don't worry, Dalembert's going to get better.' It's just like, every year, 'This is the guy.' They just don't stick with anybody. I'm pretty sure that there's been a different starting lineup every year that AI's been in Philly.

AAJ: Obviously you're a fan of his song "Giveit Up or Turnit Loose. What are two of your other favorite James Brown basslines?

CM: That's easy. "Licking Stick-Licking Stick and probably "Soul Power.

AAJ: Listening to Live at Tonic brought back to mind two of my favorite live albums growing up in the 1970s. The first one was King Curtis Live at Fillmore West...

CM:I had a feeling you were going to say that.

AAJ: Really?

CM: Yeah.

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Download jazz mp3 “Clerow's Flipped” by Christian McBride