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Christian McBride: Getting the Inside Straight

Esther Berlanga-Ryan By

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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.


Selected Discography



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)

B.W.B., Groovin'

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)

Photo credits

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

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