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Stirrin’ Up Some Heat On The Bass

CalendarApril 28, 2017
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Christian McBride is a bassist, composer and arranger, and jazz commentator/host. He tours and travels the world with the energy of a man constantly pumped up on the spirit of the music.

It is from listening to him play that you feel his joy for the art form. His tight musical sense of connection with other artists is strikingly apparent in the very rich and easy-going “Conversations with Christian,” his interview show now on Sirius XM’s “Real Jazz.”

What he likes about the changes in the music instrument are that the world of sound has become a lot smaller since early 1980s. “In an instant, you can pull out your smartphone and immediately find out what somebody’s doing halfway around the world. You can put music out there and anyone can access it,” he says.

Christian’s top musical influences have been James Brown, Ray Brown, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Oliver Nelson, Quincy Jones, Jaco Pastorius, Cannonball Adderley and Frank Sinatra. On a personal note, he credits his mother Renee, who he says has “so much integrity … and has a lot of guts.”

Hosting “Conversations with Christian” on Sirius is tons of fun, and Lou Donaldson might have been the person who made him laugh the hardest. “Also Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I was so humbled and awestruck. He’ll do that to you.”

The key to great improvisation:
Relinquishing yourself to the mood, never to overthink

How he learned the discipline to hone his craft:
No one ever had to tell me I had to practice. I couldn’t wait to do it.

Would love to perform in:
India. I’m dying to get there.

As a big football fan, is there a correlation between jazz and organized sports?
I think there are a lot of parallels between them. You have a playbook, you have a plan of attack, just like in jazz. The melody is written and the changes are determined, there is a blueprint for you to improvise. Sometimes when you get on a court you have to improvise based on what’s given to you in the moment, based on what you know.

The future holds:
Continuing to juggle all these different new ensembles: my quartet, my big band, and then NPR Jazz, my radio show “Conversations with Christian”, curating for the Newport Jazz Festival and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Photo credit: R. Andrew Lepley

    About The Author

    Debbie Burke is the author of The Poconos in B Flat and the upcoming Glissando: A Story of Love, Lust and Jazz (Waldorf Publishing, February 2018). She lives in northeastern Pennsylvania.

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