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Christian McBride and his band performed live in Castellón (Spain) on November 17th, 2006. Arturo Mora had the chance to talk to him after the show (1:30 A.M., thank you Christian!) about jazz and many other things. Thanks to our friend David Romero for the pictures.

ARTURO MORA: A typical question to start: how's the current tour going?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: No problem. This is only our third concert, but it's been going very well. I only wish that we had a little more time to prepare before we started, because we all came straight from other projects and we didn't really have time to rehearse, but we've put together a few things at the last minute, and it's been working.

ARTURO MORA: You've played with many people throughout the years in many different environments but, apart from them, you've kept your Christian McBride Band together. Which are your musical feelings in both situations (playing as a sideman or leading your band)?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: Both things are necessary. There are certain musicians that only work with their bands, they only play their music, and that's what they do. I don't think that I can ever do that, I get too much artistic stimulation from playing with other people and playing other people's music. So then when I come back to play with my band it's even more special.

ARTURO MORA: It's not usual to release such an ambitious project as Live at Tonic [live 3 CD set, RopeADope, 2006]. How did this come up?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: A friend of mine (Andy Hurwitz) who runs RopeADope Records (that's the label that we recorded it for) has always been into experimental projects, just doing a lot of different types of musical projects, and the first time I worked with RopeADope was the album called The Philadelphia Experiment. Warner Brothers Records, where I was before we did Live at Tonic stopped their jazz division and we wanted to do another CD, and RopeADope was the perfect place to do it, so Andy suggested that we do a live album and that we do it at Tonic. It worked out well, we did two nights. Pretty much everything we recorded is on CD, almost all the music from both nights.

ARTURO MORA: Except the first "Technicolor Nightmare".

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: [Surprised] Right. [Laughs] Oh, you read it! (1)

ARTURO MORA: You are considered a straight-ahead jazz icon, yet at the same time you play a lot of soul, rhythm&blues, pop, funk and other styles. Is it easy to reconcile with these two areas?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: I don't have a problem with it. I wonder if the writers have a problem with it. I don't think myself, of Geoff Keezer, or the other guys in the band consciously identify ourselves as straight-ahead players. That's something we love to do, and that's what we started out doing in our careers, but we never made this decision that that was all that we were going to do, so then when everybody started doing kind of different things, it was only a natural progression, so for us as musicians to be able to do a lot of different things is a necessity. It's the people who write about it, we should be asking them if it is easy for them to deal with us going back and forth to different things.

ARTURO MORA: Speaking about current projects, what would you like to tell us about the concert with James Brown? (2)

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: Oh man, that was a dream of a lifetime, to be able to play with James Brown finally, particularly in the setting that we had, in a jazz setting, was even more special. The only disappointing thing, I've been telling people, is that James Brown was the easiest person in the world to work with. The reason why that was disappointing was because we all know about James Brown's reputation, we know everything about his history, so I was hoping that I would get there, I was hoping that he would come in and tell me everything was wrong, and I sucked, and, you know, rehearse the band for eight hours, … and he didn't do that at all, he was totally loose, he was great! But at the same time I was wondering: "where's the old James Brown?" [laughs] Not really, I'm glad he was very easy to work with.

ARTURO MORA: That's nice. What about the new trio recording with Joshua Redman and Brian Blade?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: Well, it wasn't an entire album, it was maybe three or four songs, I don't know how many songs will he (Joshua Redman) use when the CD gets released. He used three different trios, I think one trio was Larry Grenadier and Ali Jackson, maybe, and then Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland, and then myself and Blade. It was fun to play with Joshua and Brian. We've kept the [?] chemistry during the years, and Brian is playing better than ever these days.

ARTURO MORA: And what about that trio record with Pat Metheny? When is it going to be released at last?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: I have promises that it will be out somewhere the next year, so we'll see what happens. But I don't know, because the Metheny Mehldau album was just released last month…

ARTURO MORA: Late september.

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: Late september. So I think there was supposed to be a volume 2, sometime early next year, so I guess the trio album will come out sometime in the Fall, because he also wants to tour again with the trio next year, so we'll see what happens.

ARTURO MORA: You have also played some classical music ocasionally. What feelings do you get from playing classical music?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: I've been listening to classical music again, a lot maybe. It's gorgeous music, that really opens your senses, to hear those beautiful harmonies, and the sound of properly bowed acoustic bass, that's a really beautiful thing. After the concert with the Shanghai String Quartet these last two summers, it really felt nice to be able to play some classical music live again. I hope I can do it more often.

ARTURO MORA: I read you saying that you don't like audiences that just listen, that you prefer people who feel the music and move along with it.

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: That's right.

ARTURO MORA: Does this affect you when playing classical?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: I would like it if one day a classical conductor actually took a piece of classical music, let's say Beethoven's Fifth, and completely reconstructed it, like a jazz musician would, because I think when jazz musicians do it people kind of expect that, just because the art form itself is about the personality and making it custom fit to your personality. In classical music you pretty much read what's on the paper, the room you have to manouever for interpretation is pretty narrow. So I would like to see one day a classical conductor actually write an arrangement of a classical piece, not in a jazz style, but in a classical style, like taking a piece of Mozart's and go: "ummh… let's change this note to that, let's take this part out". You know, that's sacrilegious in classical music, you don't do that, you must play this perfect piece of music as it is. But I would like to see classical music take the same kind of artistic strides as jazz does.

ARTURO MORA: Maybe Gunther Schuller could do it…

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: We'll see, it wouldn't be me, it could be [Geoffrey] Keezer [laughs].

ARTURO MORA: Everybody knows you like sports. Do you think music and sports are connected in some way?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: Yes, very much so. I think the way that athletes are forced to be able to improvise in the heat of battle, the way that people feel in much sports is the same type of exhilaration. It's a little different in that there's rules in sport, this is supposed to happen, you have to have more points than the other team, whereas in jazz it's quite subjective, you can play one thing and three people can take three different things from it, whereas in sports if the score is 3-0 everybody admits it's 3-0. But I think that the way athletes work within sport is the same thing as musicians.

DAVID ROMERO: Which sports do you practise?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: I used to play football, American football, and boxing, I like boxing a lot.

DAVID ROMERO: Have you ever fought any musicians? [laughs]

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: I tried once, but the guy was so big, man… I didn't have guts to do it.

ARTURO MORA: You were named co-director of the Jazz Museum in Harlem, being your main task to expose jazz to young people. How are you going to do this?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: There's a lot of different ways to do it. I think the most effective way is by what we call the grassroots method, just going out on the streets and kind of talking to kids and going into the schools. While we wait to do it the official way we just get out there on the street. We have all kinds of free programs, so anybody off the street can come and listen to a legendary jazz musician like Clark Terry or Roy Haynes or Hank Jones. We have a program now called Jazz for Curious Listeners, that's been a success. There's a young lady named Tia Fuller, great saxophone player, who coaches the Youth Ensemble. It's coming a bit slowly, but sure.

I think one of the bittersweet things about me being on the road with this band, as great as it is, is that I'm not home much, so most of the work is done by the other co-director. I can't be home and do my Harlem community work, and that bothers me greatly sometimes, but hey! I have to do what I have to do, it's what it is.

ARTURO MORA: Great. I'd like to talk a bit about your gear. Are you still using Bertha? (3)

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: No, that's Minnie.

ARTURO MORA: What happened to Bertha?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: She's home, relaxing (laughs).

ARTURO MORA: You're not travelling with her.

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: No, she's too big.

ARTURO MORA: Which strings and pick-up are you using for the acoustic?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: Same things always: D'Addario Hybrid strings, David Gage Realist pickup and an AMT microphone.

ARTURO MORA: What luthier do you use to work with for the acoustic?


ARTURO MORA: The one who repaired Bertha?


ARTURO MORA: Why do you use French bow instead of German bow?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: These were the only kinds of bows they had.

ARTURO MORA: Like everyone, then [laughs]. You've created a great fan communication through your website (http://www.christianmcbride.com), something we all appreciate. When will we be able to enjoy a new chapter of the McBride Diaries?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: [laughs]. I'm actually working in the ultimate blog right now, it's about the James Brown concert. It's taking me about two months to write it. It's a total of 48 pages, so I have to edit it down for the website, but I'll take people to get a kick out of reading it. (4)

ARTURO MORA: I'll check it out. Would you like to tell us something about future projects?

CHRISTIAN McBRIDE: David [Gilmore] goes back to the States this weekend and Ron Blake will rejoin us for the second half of the tour, and then after this tour is over I have a recording project coming up with Queen Latifah, a couple of concerts here and there, a lot of different things. One of these shows is with George Duke, playing New Year's Eve with McCoy Tyner, in a band with Jeff "Tain" Watts and Joe Lovano, and in January I'm producing an all-star tribute concert to Horace Silver in L.A. with Randy Brecker and Joe Farrell and Charles Tolliver, Bennie Maupin, George Coleman, Cedar Walton, Roger Humphries; and we have the Ray Brown tribute coming up in January, so lots of different things going on the next couple of months. And then we're gonna go back on the road probably in late February/March of next year.

[1] "Technicolor Nightmare" was the opening tune for both shows at Tonic. The first night the track couldn't be properly recorded for the CD release due to a technical problem.

[2] Christian McBride performed with James Brown in September 2006. "The Godfather of Soul" died three months later.

[3] Bertha is the name of the 7/8 acoustic bass Christian McBride used until 1995, when it suffered an accident that almost destroyed it. Replaced by 3/4 Minnie, Bertha's reparation finished recently (10 years after).

[4] The McBride Diary regarding the James Brown concert was removed from his website in late January 2007 due to legal reasons.

Text © 2006-2007
Photographs © 2006 David Romero