AAJ: Do you think the bass is underrated?
CMB: No, I actually think that's a myth. There's been many great bass playing band leaders, from John Kirby in the 1930s, to Charles Mingus, of course, Ray Brown, Jaco Pastorius, I am switching genres here, but, you know Marcus Miller, Esperanza Spalding, Dave Holland, Bootsy Collins.
I think there are quite a number of bass playing band leaders, who get just as much work, and have a significant contribution to the idiom as much as horn players or piano players. John Patitucci has some fantastic projects of his own. Yeah, I think there are some real good, serious bass playing band leaders out there.
AAJ: You mentioned Esperanza Spalding. We all know there aren't as many female jazz musicians. Jazz has always been mainly a male form of art, as far as musicians goes. How does it look like from the inside?
CMB: Well, I'll put it like this. As far as the musicians are concerned, the musicians are the ones that really run the show. There's the industry people, there's the writers, the magazines, the newspapers, the promoters: those are the people behind the scene. But as far as the actual musicians are concerned, there's not enough of us to be sexist or racist. I was hanging out with Branford Marsalis once and he said, "Look, if I met a woman who could play like McCoy Tyner, I'd hire her. I wouldn't care if she's a woman." All musicians I know agree with that. I think all musicians feel that way. I don't think a woman should get special treatment or a greater opportunity because she is a woman, any more than I feel like a black jazz musician should get more opportunities just because he is black.
You need to be good at what you do, you know what you mean? I feel the same way with anybody who wants to use their gender, their age, their sexual orientation, as an excuse to not get better at what it is that they do. That makes things rough for everybody.
I remember this one time, this saxophonist whose name I won't call because it's not worth it, this guys used to nag me for the longest time, "Christian I want to play in your band, I want to play in your band!" And the guy was just awful. He was like one of the worst saxophone players I've ever heard. I was like "No, you can't even play in the Salvation Army Band." "Man, that's cold blooded." I told him "You are not ready." And he insisted that he was.
But I have to give the guy points, because he never stopped. So we played a gig in New York, and I let him sit in with me one night and he was awful, and the guys in the band were making funny faces. "Why did you let him play, you knew he was going to be awful." And I told him, "You are so far from ready, so stop bothering me!" And finally he said something like, "I bet if was black you'd hire me." It took everything in my body not to punch this guy right in the mouth! I said, "Let me tell you something, you think I wouldn't hire Chris Potter or Brad Mehldau? Man, oh man...if I wasn't in control of my temper I would make you swallow all of your teeth right now for saying something so ignorant like that."
But it's people like that, that I mentioned earlier, they always want to have some excuse for themselves not to get better. He ended up quitting the saxophone, and I heard he became a lawyer. There are a lot of people like that, in life, in general, not just musicians. Oh, I'm black...oh, I'm a woman...oh, I'm gay...oh, I'm an only child...there is always an excuse for them not to get better!
AAJ: Have you ever had a moment when you stopped what you were doing, and thought, "Wow, look who I am playing with!?"
CMB: Oh yeah, it's happened many times in my career. Like being onstage with Sonny Rollins and Roy Haynes, knowing that it was Roy Haynes who recommended me to Sonny, "Hey, you have to call Christian McBride for this gig," and to know that Roy Haynes did that, it almost makes me cry. Knowing that I was in Freddie Hubbard's band for two-and-a-half years when I was 18- years-old. Recording in the studio with Joe Henderson, and with Herbie Hancock and Jack DeJohnette, Benny Carter, Hank Jones..I got to record with those guys? This is Incredible. Why did these guys waste their time with a child?! [laughs] Yeah, that happens to me often.
Christian McBride & Inside Straight, Kind of Brown (Mack Avenue Records, 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)
Christian McBride, Vertical Vision (Warner, 2003)
Ray Brown/Jay 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/Jay Clayton/Christian McBride, Super Bass (Telarc, 1997)
McCoy Tyner, What the World Needs Now: The Music of Burt Bacharach (Verve, 1997)
Chick Corea & Friends, Remembering Bud Powell (Stretch, 1997)
Joe Henderson, Joe Henderson Big Band (Verve, 1996)
Various Artists, Original Soundtrack: Kansas City (Verve, 1996)
Cedar Walton, Composer (Astor Place, 1996)
Christian McBride, Number Two Express (Verve, 1995)
Stephen Scott/Roy Hargrove/Christian McBride, Parker's Mood (Verve, 1995)
Jimmy Smith, Damn! (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)
Page 1: Courtesy of Christian McBride
Page 2: Courtesy of Chick Corea
Page 4, 7: Courtesy of Christian McBride
Page 5: Goio Villanueva
Page 6: Bruce Moore
Page 9: Insky
Page 11: John Kelman
Page 12: JazzBoo