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Christian McBride: Getting the Inside Straight

Esther Berlanga-Ryan By

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Of course, logic should have told me, "Well, people are not watching the Grammys to watch me, they're going to see Dave Brubeck." We're only going to get two minutes, I don't think I'm going to make that significant of an impact on the Grammy telecast in two minutes. I'm not even going to get a solo. So, when the Grammy Award telecast aired that night, there was some kind of miscommunication with the producer, so on the television it read "Special Tribute to Dave Brubeck, featuring Roy Hargrove and Joshua Redman." So they didn't even mention my name. [Laughs] Nobody knew who this anonymous bassist was, playing with Dave Brubeck. So not only did I not get my name mentioned on this so-called "millions of people are going to see me, and this is an offer I can't refuse," but I ended up not being able to record with Horace Silver, and I never played with him.

I spoke to him, I hung out with him a number of times after that, but I never got to play with Horace Silver. I played with Dave Brubeck a million times after that Grammy telecast, and I am very thankful that I had a great relationship with him all these years; he made me the first artistic director of his school. But I never got to play with Horace Silver, and I really, really, really regret that. And well...(laughs), when I told Dave Brubeck manager this, to put a perfect ending to this story, he said "you should have played with Horace!" [Laughs]. Oh, man...

So yeah, that was a very long answer to your question, is there any recordings that I never played on, that I look at and I say..."damn!..." Yeah, the Horace Silver record. [Laughs]. It was called The Hard bop Grandpop (Impulse!, 1996).

AAJ: Wow...that's terrible. So, who are you today?

CMB: Who am I today... [Silence] I am someone who hopefully is better than he was yesterday, but not as good as he'll be tomorrow.

AAJ: Good...and what affects Christian McBride the most when it comes to music?

Christian McBrideCMB: I don't know...the feeling..I got to get some feeling from this. You know, people who are not musicians, they can feel when you're honest. They can feel when you're really true about your art. They may not able to tell you in musical terms what you are doing, but they can feel it. Like I said earlier when I was talking about all the television shows, about how American culture is, and people who are infatuated with pop culture, they know is BS. They like it, they watch it, but they know it is BS.

So, I think that for me, what affects me with music is just feeling the true honesty and artistry in the music, you know? That's what affects me the most. I listen to a pop record, and I can tell if somebody is really trying to make music or make money. I think the difference is clear. You can tell when people are really trying to make music, or in it to be famous. I like people who are in it to make music.

AAJ: And what about anything else?

CMB: I've always been a "feel" person. I've tried to find a better balance between the spiritual and the intellectual, because I know that maybe I don't intellectualize as much as I should, in some cases. I've always been more of an 80/20 kind of person, you know? If I'm in a neighborhood that I'm not familiar with, I can feel if it's okay to walk in that neighborhood or not, where somebody else might intellectualize it and say, "Well, historically studies have shown that such and such..." But I feel like it's okay. With relationships too, you know? "Oh, I've heard through the grapevines that this person is blah blah blah..." but I always had a good sense of being able to feel a person's personality. I never cared much about reputation, I always tried to meet people on a neutral ground. It's about feeling. I tend to think about life and music as one and the same way, I got to feel it. If it feels right, I'll go with it, if not, no matter what the intellect says, I'll go with the feeling.

Christian McBrideAAJ: And what do you treasure the most about your life today?

CMB: I think I just treasure life in general. I'm not sure if there's one particular thing that I can point out, I just like the fact that I am able to wake up every day and possibly not make the same mistakes that I made in the past and at least have an opportunity to try to do better; to correct what I've done wrong; and try to make people happy with music.

Life is a gift. I think about that often, because I think I am at that point now where there are a lot of musicians that I've been friends with, like Ray Brown, James Brown, my uncle, my mother's brother, people that have passed on. I always think what is the afterlife? What happens when you check out? So instead of thinking about that, think about what you can do while you are here! So I tend to really cherish life in general. I think about all I can do while I'm here. And unfortunately I am not going to be able to do all that I want to do, because I know a lot of people, I've been to a lot of places and there are a lot of things that I really want to do, and I'm really going to try hard to do them and I hope I get it all in, because I got big plans. [Laughs]

AAJ: Do you think that jazz is still evolving?

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