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Christian McBride: Knocking on the Door

By Published: June 25, 2012
AAJ: We talked a good bit about the big band and your Conversations with Christian duets, and you did an interview for All About Jazz some time ago that focused on your quintet, Inside Straight and the CD, Kind of Brown (Mack Avenue, 2009). You've also done a lot of work with your trio with Christian Sands and Ulysses Owens. Will that be continuing, too?

CM: We just recorded, so I know that the trio is going to wind up getting a whole lot of work—I certainly hope that the trio would get a lot of work once the recording is released in the fall. Christian Sands—man, I have not been this excited about a musician probably since the first time I heard [vibraphonist] Warren Wolf
Warren Wolf
Warren Wolf
. Christian—he just turned 23 a couple of days ago, and he has so much wisdom for his age. He's still 23, very much all of 23. He still listens to a lot of popular music. He does things 23 year olds are supposed to do. But when it comes time to play the piano, he all of a sudden turns into a very old man full of wisdom. He's always asking questions, but, I mean, he listens and watches more than he asks questions. That's what I used to do when I'd be around a lot of the older guys. I'd just watch, and eventually all of my dumb questions would be answered without me having to open my mouth. And I think Christian is like that because he spent a lot of time around Dr. Taylor. He was one of Dr. Taylor's last protégés. He got to be around Hank Jones, and he got to be around Oscar Peterson. So, he got to be around the three titans of jazz piano while he was still a teenager.

AAJ: How did he get to do that?

CM: Well, because he always had so much talent as a teenager, I guess he ran into these musicians going to gigs, watching them play. That's the way to do it. He's hungry. He goes and he follows all of the baddest cats around.

AAJ: How did you meet him?

CM: I met Christian on Marian McPartland
Marian McPartland
Marian McPartland
1918 - 2013
's radio show on NPR. I got a call to come in and sub on Piano Jazz, and I asked Marian who the subject was. She said, it's a young kid named Christian Sands. I thought, OK. I'd never heard of him, but I said, "Well, if he's on your show, he must be pretty good." My manager and I went to the studio, and we heard him warming up. He sounded really good. It was funny, because I was thinking, "What do you ask an 18 year-old who hasn't really had any gigs yet? I can't stretch this out for an hour." But on one of the breaks I heard him play something—he played some really fast stride piano, and he played this Oscar Peterson lick at top speed. I can't remember what song I called but it was something fast. And he said, yeah, let's play that. And he played that tempo—just nailed it. And then I said, let's play a ballad. And we played a ballad very, very slow, and he nailed that. And I thought, "You know what? I'm going to be a pain in this kid's behind." And I guess about a year or so later I asked him to sub in Inside Straight because Peter Martin
Peter Martin
Peter Martin
, my regular pianist had to miss a couple of gigs, so I called Christian. We've been playing together pretty much ever since. He's such a bad little dude. I love him to death.

Selected Discography

Christian McBride, Conversations with Christian (Mack Avenue, 2011)

Christian McBride Big Band, The Good Feeling (Mack Avenue, 2011)

Chick Corea/John McLaughlin, Five Peace Band: Live (Concord, 2009)

Christian McBride & Inside Straight, Kind of Brown (Mack Avenue, 2009)

Pat Metheny, Day Trip (Nonesuch, 2008)

Christian McBride, Live at Tonic (Ropeadope, 2006)

Chick Corea/Steve Gadd/Christian McBride, Super Trio (Stretch/Universal Japan, 2006)

Diana Krall, The Girl in the Other Room (Verve, 2004)

McCoy Tyner, Illuminations (Telarc, 2004)

Christian McBride, Vertical Vision (Warner, 2003)

Ray Brown/John Clayton/Christian McBride, Super Bass 2 (Telarc, 2001)

Uri Caine/Christian McBride/Ahmir Thompson, The Philadelphia Experiment (Ropeadope, 2001)

Christian McBride, Sci-Fi (Verve, 2000)

John Scofield, Works for Me (Verve, 2000)

Christian McBride, A Family Affair (Verve, 1998)

Christian McBride/Nicholas Payton/Mark Whitfield, Fingerpainting: The Music of Herbie Hancock (Verve, 1997)

Ray Brown/John Clayton/Christian McBride, Super Bass (Telarc, 1997)

Chick Corea & Friends, Remembering Bud Powell (Stretch, 1997)

Joe Henderson, Joe Henderson Big Band (Verve, 1996)

Christian McBride, Number Two Express (Verve, 1995)

Stephen Scott/Roy Hargrove/Christian McBride, Parker's Mood (Verve, 1995)

Joe Henderson, Double Rainbow: The Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim (Verve, 1995)

Christian McBride, Gettin' To It (Verve, 1995)

Roy Haynes, Te Vou! (Dreyfus, 1994)

Joe Henderson, Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn (Verve, 1992)

Photo Credits

Pages 1, 7: Anna Webber

Page 2 (Top): Courtesy of Christian McBride
Christian McBride
Christian McBride

Pages 2 (Bottom), 3-6: Herb Scher

Page 8: Leo Montgomery

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