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Christian McBride & Inside Straight: Kind of Brown

John Barron By

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Bassist/composer Christian McBride is one of the most in-demand sidemen in the music business, having toured and recorded with the likes of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Diana Krall and Sting. The Philadelphia-native has also made a name for himself as a daring leader, exploring both acoustic and electronic styles. For Kind of Brown, his premier date for the Detroit-based Mack Avenue Records, McBride introduces his new acoustic jazz quintet Inside Straight, featuring pianist Eric Scott Reed, saxophonist Steve Wilson, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, Jr. and drummer Carl Allen.

The elegant funk of the opening blues, "Brother Mister," allows Reed, Wilson and Wolf to warm up on a down-home groove set up by McBride and Allen. The breezy mood is then interrupted as McBride rips through the intro to Freddie Hubbard's up-tempo swinger, "Theme for Kareem." The ferocious post-bop vibe showcases the quintet's command of the modern jazz language with unrivaled technique.

Lyricism shines through on "Rainbow Wheel" and "Starbeam," two of McBride's more poignant compositions. The gospel vibe of "Used 'Ta Cha" is a spirited good time with fun, blues-based soloing from all, including a punchy bowed turn from McBride. "The Shade of the Cedar Tree," which first appeared on McBride's debut as a leader, Gettin' To It (Verve, 1995), moves elegantly from swing to Latin with soaring solos from Wolf, Wilson and Reed.

Reed's vivacious "Pursuit of Peace" has a straight-forward melody on top of an intricate bass line, creating a contrapuntal effect with plenty of soul. McBride's beautiful waltz tribute to the late pianist James Williams, "Uncle James," features an impressive melodic turn from Wilson on soprano saxophone. "Stick & Move" is a barn-burner of a blues ripe with juicy blowing. The go-for-broke attitude here is a highlight of the session.

McBride closes the disc with bow in hand on the standard "Where Are You?," done as a lovely duet with reed; a quiet close to a disc of utmost sophistication and virtuosity.

Track Listing: Brother Mister; Theme For Kareem; Rainbow Wheel; Starbeam: Used 'Ta Could; The Shade of the Cedar Tree; Pursuit of Peace; Uncle James; Stick & Move; Where Are You?

Personnel: Christian McBride: bass; Carl Allen: drums; Eric Scott Reed: piano; Steve Wilson: sax; Warren Wolf, Jr.: vibes.

Title: Kind Of Brown | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

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