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Interviews

Christian McBride: Knocking on the Door

By Published: June 25, 2012
AAJ: The title, The Good Feeling—where does that come from?

CM: I don't know, just a random phrase that came to mind when I was thinking of the overall vibe of the project. It just seemed right to call it The Good Feeling.



AAJ: You have another recent CD out, Conversations with Christian—a series of duets. You've also got the podcast interviews on iTunes and the Sirius XM radio show that tie in with that, correct?

CM: What happened was we decided that when I would go into the studio to record a piece of music with my duet partners, I would also interview them. The interview would become a podcast, and the musical performance would be on the CD. So, the podcast and the CD are kind of together. And then there was the radio show on Sirius XM, a live performance radio show kind of based on the same format. So it got a little confusing in trying to explain the difference between the CD, the podcast, and the radio show, because roughly they're all the same thing.

AAJ: The CD has you teamed up with 13 different partners, including five different piano players. You've got Billy Taylor
Billy Taylor
Billy Taylor
1921 - 2010
piano
, Hank Jones
Hank Jones
Hank Jones
1918 - 2010
piano
, George Duke
George Duke
George Duke
1946 - 2013
piano
, Chick Corea, and Eddie Palmieri
Eddie Palmieri
Eddie Palmieri
b.1936
piano
—all strikingly different kinds of performances.

CM: It's hard to believe that both Hank Jones and Dr. Taylor would pass away so soon after we recorded. I knew Hank had been on the decline leading up to the last six months or so of his life. But Dr. Taylor, that surprised me a little bit. I knew he had heart surgery, but I had seen him after that, and he looked like he had never been touched. He looked like the same Dr. Taylor. He hadn't lost any weight. His face was still full, and his skin was beautiful. And the next thing I know, he's gone—cardiac arrest. So, you just never know sometimes.

AAJ: So these recordings were done over some time, then.

CM: Oh, yeah. It took over the course of a year. We started doing the first duets I believe in December of 2008, and we did the last one in around early 2010.

AAJ: The recordings with Hank Jones and Chick Corea are interesting contrasts—with Jones, "Alone Together," an American songbook classic, and with Corea a loosely structured improvisation.

CM: Yeah, it was no structure. That's what I love about working and being around somebody like Chick. I mean, I'm sure Dr. Taylor or Hank Jones would have done it also, but with Chick it's just a little different. We went into the studio, and he says, "Well, what do you want to play?" And I said, "I thought we could just freely improvise—whatever happens, happens." And Chick said, "Great, let's do it." Again, I'm sure that Hank or Dr. Taylor would been game for that, too, but I think the results would have been a shade different than what they were with Chick.

AAJ: You do a James Brown
James Brown
James Brown
1933 - 2006
vocalist
tune with Dee Dee Bridgewater
Dee Dee Bridgewater
Dee Dee Bridgewater
b.1950
vocalist
, "It's Your Thing."

CM: That seems to be the hit off the CD. I've gotten more requests for that. I get emails from radio programmers, "Oh, man, 'It's Your Thing'—we play that every day!"

AAJ: And you play one of your own compositions, "Sister Rosa," with Russell Malone
Russell Malone
Russell Malone
b.1963
guitar, electric
, who you played with in a trio setting in February with Monty Alexander
Monty Alexander
Monty Alexander
b.1944
piano
—part of a two-week stint Monty did at the Blue Note.

CM: That was so much fun. That gig was so rockin.' Man, I love playing with Monty. He's a one-man big band.

AAJ: He introduced you as "Ray Brown's son—plus!" They billed that show as "Triple Treat Revisited," after Monty Alexander's Triple Treat trio with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis
Herb Ellis
Herb Ellis
1921 - 2010
guitar
.

CM: I was using one of Ray Brown's old basses for that gig. Ray died—he owned three basses—his wife kept one, I have one, and John Clayton has the other.

AAJ: Is this the bass you usually play?

CM: No, but it was the bass I used at the Blue Note with Monty. And we recorded that also. So, I'm dying to hear that. I cannot wait to hear that. I love being around Monty. He's a real guy's guy when it comes to rhythm—and sports. He's a huge sports fan, especially boxing. So, when we're together, we're either talking about R&B or Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
1925 - 2007
piano
and Ray Brown or Muhammad Ali. Great guy to be around.

AAJ: So, for the Triple Treat show, did you try to evoke Ray Brown's playing style at all?

CM: Well, you know musicians don't do that. You do what the gig calls for. But once a year, actually, sometimes couple of times a year, members of what we call the Ray Brown family—you know, Benny Green
Benny Green
Benny Green
b.1963
piano
, Gregory Hutchinson
Gregory Hutchinson
Gregory Hutchinson
b.1970
drums
, Russell Malone, Karriem Riggins
Karriem Riggins
Karriem Riggins
b.1975
drums
, Jeff Kaiser
Jeff Kaiser
b.1961
trumpet
, Marlena Shaw
Marlena Shaw
Marlena Shaw
b.1942
vocalist
, Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
Jeff Hamilton
b.1953
drums
, whoever it might be—we do a series of Ray Brown tribute concerts. This year I think will be the first year we won't get together and do it, although the year's not over yet. Last year we did it with Benny Green and Greg Hutchinson and Dee Dee Bridgewater. So, Ray Brown is still very much alive. His spirit is still alive in all of his former band members who are still here. And so, we get together and try to do that at least once a year.


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