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Christian McBride Big Band: Bringin' It

Dan Bilawsky By

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Where and how does Christian McBride find the time to do what he does? His plate is full about nine times over, what with his work as bassist, composer, bandleader, educator, jazz advocate, public speaker, radio personality, DJ, and Artistic Director for the Newport Jazz Festival. It's no wonder that it took him six years to get this juggernaut of a big band back together in the studio.

This album serves as the long-awaited follow-up to The Good Feeling (Mack Avenue, 2011), the group's Grammy-winning debut. And like its lauded predecessor, Bringin' It presents a tight and tasty program of music designed by McBride and bolstered by his bass. Everything you've come to expect from this musical dynamo—taste, punch, humor, intelligence, solid gold grooves, an appreciation for lyricism—is here for the taking. Styles and settings vary greatly from track to track and moment to moment, but this ensemble is remarkably consistent through it all.

McBride looks to the funky side of life on "Gettin' To It," an album opener that finds trumpeter Freddie Hendrix and guitarist Rodney Jones stealing the show, and he delivers a solidly swinging take on Freddie Hubbard's "Thermo" that recalls his time spent working with that trumpet icon. Then he brings his wit into full view with "Youthful Bliss." Unexpected detours that seemingly come out of left field—a quick drop into Brazil, a classically-oriented flute finger-bender—make for a wild ride. They enliven the atmosphere and keep everybody on their toes.

The leader takes a compositional cue or two from the great Maria Schneider with his harmonically moored vision of "I Thought About You," a feature for trumpeter Brandon Lee, and he eschews the desert in favor of the jungle on McCoy Tyner's "Sahara," giving drummer Quincy Phillips the greenlight to take charge. As on The Good Feeling, vocalist Melissa Walker drops in for a pair of tunes—"Upside Down" and "Mr. Bojangles," bookending a nod to Wes Montgomery in the form of "Full House"—and she doesn't disappoint.

The final stretch of the album proves no less memorable than what precedes it. The soul quotient is exceeded with "Used 'Ta Could," an earthy number showcasing saxophonist Steve Wilson and trombonist Michael Dease; Sinatra's late night clarity comes through in McBride's vision of "In The Wee Small Hours," a number resting on his lyrical arco lines and featuring Dan Pratt's tenor; and the band swings its way home through trombonist Steve Davis' arrangement of "Optimism."

This album is proof positive that big band jazz can be entertaining without actually pandering or diluting itself. Whether putting a new coat of paint on material from his past, nodding to his influences and mentors, or looking to the classics for inspiration, Christian McBride proves artfully inventive while drawing us in with his magnetic personality. Bringin' It is a meritorious musical feast just waiting to be consumed. No real surprise there. Everything this man touches turns to gold.

Track Listing: Getin' To It; Thermo; Youthful Bliss; I Thought About You; Sahara; Upside Down; Full House; Mr. Bojangles; Used ' Ta; Could; In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning.

Personnel: Christian McBride: bass; Steve Wilson: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Todd Bashore: alto saxophone, flute, piccolo; Ron Blake: tenor saxophone, flute; Dan Pratt: tenor saxophone, flute; Carl Maraghi: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Frank Greene: trumpet; Freddie Hendrix: trumpet; Brandon Lee: trumpet; Nabate Isles: trumpet; Steve Davis: trombone (11); Michael Dease: trombone; Joe McDonough: trombone (1-10); James Burton: trombone; Douglas Purviance: bass trombone; Xavier Davis: piano; Quincy Phillips: drums; Rodney Jones: guitar; Melissa Walker: vocals (6, 8); Brandee Younger: harp (10).

Title: Bringin' It | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

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