In today's jazz world, with most artists working clubs in small combos, there may be something a little retro about a big band recording. However, there are always musicians that are up for the challenge of arranging and recording for larger groups despite the logistics involved.
Enter Christian McBride, one of the most accomplished and in-demand bassists on the scene. He has also done his share of arranging for big bands as well, so he's not new to the field. However, The Good Feeling (2011) is his first full-fledged foray into leading a big band of his own. Some of the songs are standards, but most are McBride compositions reconfigured for the larger group. It's an energetic, lively recording that features a very modern soundthere isn't much that recalls the bygone days of the '40s big band heyday.
Although the The Good Feeling is a studio recording, McBride structures it very much like a concert. The opener, "Shake 'N' Bake" serves as an introduction to the band, all brassy swagger and punchy riffs with solos from the band. A more subdued "Broadway" follows, which then segues into the original "Brother Mister," a modern, funky tune that displays the type of big band writing going on by many today.
Throughout the recording are a few songs with vocals by Melissa Walker. She's a fine vocalist and the three numbers that feature her are balanced between nuanced singing and colorful charts. "A Taste of Honey" is given an opening riff that recalls John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" which gives the song a lot more power than one might expect. "When I Fall In Love" is a delicate ballad done perfectly.
Right in the middle is "Science Fiction," an eleven-minute plus tone poem of sorts. It's a fascinating work that cruises through several captivating movements, from the atonal to the forceful. On this song, McBride is making a persuasive argument for how the big band can be used in a modern setting to create forward thinking compositions.
The playing all around is superb, as can be expected from a guy who likely had the pick of the litter when it came to choosing sidemen. Freddie Hendrix lays down some searing trumpet solos. Longtime associates Steve Wilson and Ron Blake on saxophones and Steve Davis on trombone also contribute good work on the stand. McBride too takes some accomplished solos, even pulling out the bow on "In A Hurry."
McBride isn't one to settle into patterns; he's always up for trying new things. Most likely his next recording won't be with a big band, but with any luck The Good Feeling won't be his last.
Shake N' Blake; Broadway; Brother Mister; When I Fall In Love; Science Fiction; The Shade Of The Cedar Tree; The More I See You; I Should Care; A Taste Of Honey; Bluesin' In Alphabet City; In A Hurry.
Christian McBride: bass; Steve Wilson: alto saxophone, flute; Todd Bashore: alto saxophone, flute; Ron Blake: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Todd Williams: tenor saxophone, flute; Loren Schoenberg: tenor saxophone (2, 8); Carl Maraghi: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Frank Greene: trumpet; Freddie Hendrix: trumpet; Nicholas Payton: trumpet; Nabati Isles: trumpet; Steve Davis: trombone; Michael Dease: trombone; James Burton: trombone; Douglas Purviance: bass trombone; Xavier Davis: piano; Ulysses Owens, Jr.: drums; Melissa Walker: vocals.
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