Christian McBride Big Band: The Good Feeling (2011)
This formidable bassist has had a versatile career as leader, sideman, composer and arranger; he has appeared with a galaxy of star players from jazz, as well as rock and pop; and has been commissioned to write for orchestras and festivals.
Here, he commands a tightly-knit 17-piece unit, featuring established soloists like trumpeter Nicholas Payton, saxophonists Steve Wilson and Ron Blake, and trombonists Michael Dease and Steve Davis. Pianist Xavier Davis and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. provide the group's foundation.
The aggregation performs six McBride compositions and five standards. Three well-known ballads are given pleasing renditions by vocalist Melissa Walker, in a Dianne Reeves cum Sarah Vaughan vein.
The album starts out with the temperature up on "Shake 'n Blake." As the title suggests, McBride wrote this for Blake, who obliges with a crisp solo. McBride's bass is out front and prominent here, as it is on most numbers.
The venerable Count Basie style is given homage in the bouncy favorite, "Broadway." On another chestnut, "I Should Care," McBride helps to tease out the familiar melody in a delightful manner. The song then becomes a showcase for trumpets and saxophones.
McBride's "Science Fiction" is an almost 12-minute tone poem, effectively suggesting the otherworldly: the piano, a ticking clock; the woodwinds, precursors of all that's alien.
The closing "In a Hurry" is accelerando con brio, with saxophones and trombones turned loose. McBride's bowed bass leads into in an unfettered ending, with a call-and response unleashing a dynamo of drums at the finish.
McBride should keep this band in his phone directory, bringing them together for more recordings and appearances. His orchestra should be listed alongside other ensembles, the likes of the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, the Maria Schneider and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.
Track Listing: Shake 'n Blake; Broadway; Brother Mister; When I Fall In Love; Science Fiction; The Shade Of The Cedar Tree; The More I See You; I Should Care; A Taste Of Honey; Bluesin' In Alphabet City; In A Hurry.
Personnel: Christian McBride: Bass; Steve Wilson: alto sax, flute; Todd Bashore: alto sax, flute; Ron Blake: tenor sax, soprano sax, flute; Todd Williams: tenor sax, flute; Loren Schoenberg: tenor sax (2, 8); Carl Maraghi: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Frank Greene: Trumpet; Freddie Hendrix: trumpet; Nicholas Payton: trumpet; Nabate Isles: trumpet; Steve Davis: trombone; Michael Dease: trombone; James Burton: trombone; Douglas Purviance: bass trombone; Xavier Davis: piano; Ulysses Owens, Jr.: drums; Melissa Walker: vocals (4, 7, 9).
Record Label: Mack Avenue Records