[JPL] A Situation Is Brewing, Acoustic and Fierce

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 29 17:04:12 EDT 2007

June 28, 2007
Music Review | Christian McBride
A Situation Is Brewing, Acoustic and Fierce 
When the bassist Christian McBride feels good about a
groove, he savors it, exults in it. Flashing a
million-watt smile, he tosses off frolicsome
micro-elaborations: a downward-tumbling triplet run, a
jaunt of springy quarter notes on the fifth degree of
the scale. This sort of thing happens a lot,
especially on his bandstand. It certainly happened on
Tuesday night at the Village Vanguard, where he’s
headlining this week.

For some reason this is the first time Mr. McBride has
led his own ensemble there in more than a decade, a
period in which he has delved deeply into funk and
fusion. (Actually that might be the reason.) His
regular band is an electric dynamo best heard live, or
at least on the first disc of “Live at Tonic”
(Ropeadope), released last year. At the Vanguard he
has an all-acoustic entourage: Steve Wilson on alto
saxophone, Eric Reed on piano, Warren Wolf on
vibraphone and Carl Allen on drums. 

Mr. McBride calls the group a Christian McBride
Situation, his blanket term for a passing arrangement
of sympathetic players. But because the collective
history runs deep here, particularly in the rhythm duo
of Mr. Allen and Mr. McBride, there’s no ad hoc
feeling to the interplay. The late set on Tuesday was
loose, but it was also often fierce. 

On most tunes Mr. Wilson and Mr. Wolf shared the
melody, creating a soothing blend of saxophone and
vibraphone that Mr. McBride has been exploring at
least since his mid-1990s Verve release “Number Two
Express.” The opener, “Grove,” came from that album
and adopted a cruising medium-bright tempo that was
more common in that era. At the proper moment each
melodist established his characteristic solo style:
resourceful and imperturbable for Mr. Wilson, effusive
and volatile for Mr. Wolf.

Post-bop modality formed a roaring undercurrent
throughout the set. It turned up on “A Night in
Barcelona,” a soul-jazz tune by Harold Land, and in
“Uhura’s Moment Returned,” a minor blues that Mr. Wolf
stamped with authoritative fervor. The closer, which
Mr. McBride identified as the theme from his extended
work “The Movement Revisited,” featured a
hard-charging ostinato that gave way to headlong
swing; Mr. Reed, manically inspired, delivered an
ecstatic essay in the 1960s style of McCoy Tyner. 

Naturally Mr. McBride had ample solo space himself.
For the Walter Gross-Jack Lawrence standard
“Tenderly,” he fashioned an unaccompanied introduction
that was dazzling in its pointillism. Then he played
the melody with a bow, with all appropriate
tenderness, while Mr. Reed rustled some chords nearby.

There were other impressive bass solos, each attesting
to Mr. McBride’s uncommon synthesis of agility, brawn
and wit. But what was most striking about his
performance was the way he grounded and steered the
group, by virtue of his locomotion and his verbal
exhortations. Watching his sidemen respond to him,
you’re almost tempted to pose a question: Why doesn’t
every jazz combo seem to be having such a good time?

Performances continue through Sunday at the Village
Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, at 11th Street,
West Village, (212) 255-4037, villagevanguard.com.


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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