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Christian McBride – bass
Joey DeFrancesco – organ
Mark Whitfield – guitar
Quincy Phillips – drums
Frank Greene, Freddie Hendrix, Brandon Lee, Nabate Isles, Anthony Hervey – trumpets
Michael Dease, Steve Davis, James Burton, Douglas Purviance – trombones
Steve Wilson, Todd Bashore, Ron Blake, Dan Pratt, Carl Maraghi – woodwinds
Also Available on 2-LP 180gm in deluxe gatefold package
Christian McBride solidifies his role as the champion of the past, present and future of jazz with his GRAMMY® Award-winning Big Band’s new album in tribute to Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery and Oliver Nelson. Featuring special guests Joey DeFrancesco and Mark Whitfield, "For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver" honors the historical legacy of the jazz legends who shaped the soul of music for generations to come.
In September 1966, organist Jimmy Smith and guitarist Wes Montgomery got together at Rudy Van Gelder’s famed studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Over the course of three days, the two jazz icons recorded the material for two now-classic albums: The Dynamic Duo (1966) and Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes (1968), backed by a big band featuring arrangements by the great Oliver Nelson.
That pair of electrifying outings would prove seminal for another dynamic duo over the ensuing decades: bass great Christian McBride and master organist Joey DeFrancesco would wear out the grooves on their copies of the Smith/Montgomery summit meetings during their high school days, and both would remain touchstones throughout a friendship and collaboration that has lasted nearly 40 years. Now, the pair pays tribute with For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver, the third release by the GRAMMY® Award-winning Christian McBride Big Band.
Due for release on September 25 via Mack Avenue Records, For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver echoes the format of the original Smith/Montgomery summit meetings, with a balance of big band and quartet tracks. To complete the core band, McBride called on another longtime friend and collaborator, Mark Whitfield, to play the Montgomery role, while regular CMBB drummer Quincy Phillips anchors the ensemble.
“Joey is, without question, my oldest friend in music,” McBride says. “We met in middle school playing in the Settlement Music School Jazz Ensemble. We’ve recorded a few things here and there over the years, but we’ve never recorded an entire album together until now. It seemed logical to salute the two albums that we listened to quite a bit as kids.”
The repertoire on For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver also follows from the Smith/Montgomery recordings, with four tracks reprised for the originals along with a mix of originals and standards that capture the same ebullient spirit. The celebratory tone is set with the rollicking classic “Night Train.” The familiar, window-rattling tune was part of The Dynamic Duo, but it’s been a constant in the books of many a bandleader who’s been influential to McBride and DeFrancesco, including Duke Ellington and James Brown.
Montgomery’s “Road Song” originally appeared on Further Adventures, and here allows both Whitfield and DeFrancesco to show off on captivating, exploratory solos, each brilliantly comping for the other and showing off their dynamic chemistry. “Milestones” is taken from the same album, and again allows the band to tip its collective hat not only to the album’s titular sources but to another giant who has played a key role in their musical lives: Miles Davis, who famously recruited DeFrancesco straight out of high school.
The classic spiritual “Down By the Riverside,” which opened The Dynamic Duo, is taken at a breakneck pace by the skilled band, lending the tune an even more raucous spirit than the Smith/Montgomery rendition. The last two pieces are originals: Whitfield contributed “Medgar Evers’ Blues,” a salute to the slain civil rights activist originally recorded on his 1990 debut, The Marksman. And “Pie Blues,” which closes the album on a soulful, down and dirty note, is built on a groove that McBride and DeFrancesco devised while still in high school together at Philadelphia’s High School for Creative And Performing Arts (CAPA), alongside classmates like Kurt Rosenwinkel and members of Boyz II Men and The Roots.
“There’s not really a melody, just a groove,” McBride explains. “As for the word ‘Pie,’ we’re not sure where that came from. We were just being silly. I know we sure ate a lot of pie back then!”
The band pares down to the quartet of McBride, DeFrancesco, Whitfield and Phillips for four tracks. The first is a lilting take on Freddie Hubbard favorite “Up Jumped Spring” highlighted by a nimble, singing turn by the bassist. Whitfield is at his most heartfelt on “The Very Thought of You,” with DeFrancesco’s cloud-like chords conjuring an airy atmosphere. All four rise to the sophisticated elegance of Billy Eckstine on their version of “I Want To Talk About You,” while DeFrancesco’s “Don Is,” a winking homage to bassist and Blue Note honcho Don Was, is buoyed by Phillips’ light-footed swing.
The 17-piece Christian McBride Big Band has become one of the most scintillating large ensembles on the modern jazz scene since its 2011 Mack Avenue Music Group debut, The Good Feeling. Both that album and its successor, 2017’s Bringin’ It, garnered GRAMMY® Awards in the Best Large Jazz Ensemble category. The stellar band has remained remarkably consistent throughout that history, a testament to the camaraderie and joyous vibe of McBride’s intensely swinging ensemble.
The CMBB features a host of elite musicians mixing renowned veterans with rising stars, most of them bandleaders in their own right: trumpeters Frank Greene, Freddie Hendrix, Brandon Lee, Nabate Isles and Anthony Hervey; trombonists Michael Dease, Steve Davis, James Burton and Douglas Purviance; and saxophonists Steve Wilson, Todd Bashore, Ron Blake, Dan Pratt and Carl Maraghi.
The real foundation is hardcore swingin’ blues and the American songbook.
For local jazz buffs, this is the summer of Christian McBride. The 43-year-old bass virtuoso will perform with a pair of Grammy-winning trios over the next couple of months, leading his own at Scullers on June 3 and 4, then joining Chick Corea and drummer Brian Blade at Rockport Music (July 25 and 26), the Newport Jazz Festival (July 29 and 30), and Tanglewood (July 31).
Last Thursday night, at the ninth annual Inside the Jazz Note at Montclair State’s Alexander Kasser Hall, Christian McBride sat down with none other than jazz great Wynton Marsalis.
The annual jazz festival included a tribute to musician, producer, conductor, entertainment-company executive and humanitarian Quincy Jones, who grew up in Seattle, as well as the great performances the event is known for.
"McBride is a busy, multifaceted artist who’s constantly juggling projects, and the release of Bringin’ It gives his big-band fans a reason to celebrate.” —DownBeat
The esteemed bassist Christian McBride was born just after the close of the Civil Rights Movement, so he remembers learning about its heroes by flipping through the copies of his grandmother’s copies of Ebony and Jet magazines from the 1950s and ’60s. For many years he has worked on “The Movement Revisited,” a musical suite celebrating four figures from those pages who inspired him as a child: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali. The suite, finally released as an album Friday, mixes hard-nosed small-group playing, soaring big-band orchestration, spoken readings from figures like Sonia Sanchez and Wendell Pierce, and choral singing. On “Sister Rosa,” the piece dedicated to Parks, a big band and a choir both savor the deep, mid-tempo swing feel, leaning on McBride’s bass for support as the voices unite in a long, weary drawl, quoting Parks: “I’m tired.” RUSSONELLO
On January 5, 2017, the Jazz Connect Conference will present bassist, bandleader, educator, and advocate Christian McBride with the Bruce Lundvall Visionary Award. The Jazz Connect Conference created the Bruce Lundvall Visionary Award in 2014 in honor of the esteemed jazz record executive who was a champion and advocate for so many jazz artists over the last four decades.
A year before he died in 1977, the blind jazz genius Rahsaan Roland Kirk inspired an impromptu parade in Newark. One minute he was playing the downtown club Sparky J’s. The next he was leading his band, pied-piper-like, across the street to the Key Club, a different nightspot, while still making music on one of the three saxes he was known to play in unison and in harmony.
In the mid ‘90s when he was a young, frisky jazz guy from Philadelphia who was taking New York by storm, bassist Christian Scott talked to me for an article in Strings magazine about some of his heroes. On the jazz bass tip, he singled out Ray Brown, who embraced the youngster’s talent, and Ron Carter, who was, let’s say, not as enthusiastic and even mean-spirited.
Christian McBride doesn’t need a big band to make a big impression, as he’s shown us countless times — on the bass, on the bandstand and in the booth. But when he finally did assemble a big band of his own, he saw results:The Good Feeling, on Mack Avenue, won the 2011 Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.
To see Ray’s legacy, you don’t have to look far. It lives on in the countless musicians he influenced, including the ones here with us tonight. And we’ve got Rickey Minor conducting the Christian McBride Big Band using some of Ray’s actual arrangements. And let me tell you, these guys can play anything, and they play it well.
Christian McBride’s big band had just finished a bustling rendition of “The Shade of the Cedar Tree” on the main stage of the Newport Jazz Festival here on Saturday afternoon when the bandleader felt compelled to speak.
"He's that rare jazz bassist who's a genuine leader. The success of Bringin' It begs the question: What can't Christian McBride do?” —Stereophile