was looking for a new musical challenge. So he decided to form a band that would play without the use of chords. The bassist explains, "Every major group I've been a part of for the last ten years, whether it's been with Pat Metheny
or Chick Corea
, or my own projects, there's been nothing but chords. So, I wanted to see what happens if I just pull the chords out altogether."
The result is Christian McBride's New Jawn
. The name derives from the black Philadelphian slang term jawn
meaning "thing," as in "do your thing." The band comprises McBride, trumpeter Josh Evans
, saxophonist Marcus Strickland
, and drummer Nasheet Waits
. McBride says he chose the name New Jawn
because the band's members "had grit under their fingernails" and he wanted a name that wasn't "buttoned up" like Quartet
. The band's only (golden) rule: no chords.
McBride's other recent bands have included: Inside Straight, featuring alto/soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson; a trio featuring the phenomenal young pianist Christian Sands; an 18-piece big band; and the experimental group A Christian McBride Situation with pianist Patrice Rushen, saxophonist Ron Blake and vocalist Alyson Williams. No doubt about it, McBride's almost as hard-working as was the the late James Brown
. He has also played as a sideman on around 300 albums and is artistic director of the Newport Jazz Festival, having succeeded founder George Wein in that role in 2016.
The New Jawn kick off with McBride's "Walkin' Funny," the staggering rhythm and stuttering of the horns implying a drunken, unsteady gait. Next up: "Ke-Kelli Sketch," a portrait of drummer Nasheet Waits' wife that Waits describes as "an aural Picasso." McBride is to the fore with Waits right up there with him, then Evans and Strickland take over and it all becomes a tad formless, perhaps a flaw of the no chords approach (or maybe they just wanted it that way).
"The Ballad of Ernie Washington" is named for the pseudonym Thelonious Monk
used when his cabaret card was revoked in the mid-1950s. The number is so respectful Monk might not have approved but it's one of the standout tracks, along with "The Middleman" and "Pier One Import."
The proceedings conclude with Wayne Shorter's fast-paced "Sightseeing." Strickland plays an interesting, freewheeling solo with McBride working hard in behind him. Evans takes over, then leaves McBride to get on with it, which he does in his usual no-frills, muscular but intelligent fashion.