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Christian McBride: A Family Affair

Jim Santella By

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At 26, bassist Christian McBride qualifies for the "young lion" tag. His visibility has been enhanced by appearances on Robert Altman's film Kansas City, Clint Eastwood's Eastwood After Hours, Diana Krall's Love Scenes, the compilation Upstairs at Melrose Place, John Pizzarelli's Dear Mr. Cole, and Joshua Redman's MoodSwing. Moreover, his experience with Randy Weston, Freddie Hubbard, T.S. Monk, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, and organist Jimmy Smith has demonstrated McBride's mainstream roots to the jazz-listening public.

The bassist wrote half the selections on this album, including the lyrics to "A Dream of You" and "...Or So You Thought." Most tracks feature the quartet of tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist Charles Craig, bassist McBride, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.

Like the music at a family get-together, McBride splits the session between R&B "fun music" and his straight-ahead acoustic ensemble. The leader begins Stevie Wonder's "Summer Soft" with the bowed acoustic bass but soon switches to the electric model and offers the pop tune with back beat and quiet repetition. Sly Stone's "Family Affair" places the acoustic quartet in the spotlight as the ensemble marches deliberately and takes turns at the solo mic.

The toe-tapping music swings deliciously and is presented in a variety of different formats. Earth, Wind & Fire's "I'll Write a Song for You" is performed by the duo of Russell Malone on acoustic guitar and McBride on bowed bass. Together, they offer a lovely ballad with attention paid to the lyrical nature of the tune. Kool and the Gang's "Open Sesame" is performed as an arrangement that allows the dramatic intensity to leap out. Hutchinson and Craig, particularly, stretch out freely. McBride's composition "Wayne's World" follows with more drama. Together, these two tracks achieve what the leader intended when he put this session together: he's combined daring straight-ahead ideas with enjoyable and familiar R&B.

Track Listing: I'm Coming Home; A Dream of You; Family Affair; Theme from Our Fairytale; ? Or So You Thought; Summer Soft; Brown Funk; Open Sesame; Wayne's World; I?ll Write a Song for You.

Personnel: Christian McBride: acoustic bass, electric bass; Charles Craig: piano, electric piano, synth; Tim Warfield: tenor saxophone; Gregory Hutchinson: drums; Russell Malone: acoustic guitar, electric guitar; Munyungo Jackson: percussion; Vintage Keys: synths; Will Downing, Vesta: vocals.

Title: A Family Affair | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Verve Music Group

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