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Wed Jan 7 09:45:19 EST 2009


January 7, 2009

Part Concert, Part Chat: Two Guys Talking Music

Before getting down to business at Dizzy¹s Club Coca-Cola on Monday, the
bassist Christian McBride laid out the evening¹s premise. He was kicking off
³Conversations With Christian,² a yearlong series of onstage dialogues, with
words and music, at the urging of his wife and his manager. His lifelong
sports fanaticism had something to do with this idea, he said. His natural
volubility surely played a role, too. (He didn¹t need to explain that part.)

³So this will be a combination of, like, Bill Cosby, Howard Cosell and
Marian McPartland,² he said.

You imagine Mr. McBride making the same pitch to Sirius XM Radio, which has
agreed to broadcast an edited version of the series. But judging by his
first of two sets, Mr. McBride will be leaning more on the precedent of Ms.
McPartland, in her celebrated public radio show, ³Piano Jazz,² than on
either of the other two touchstones. (His ratio of interview to performance
also invites comparison to ³Spectacle,² Elvis Costello¹s new Sundance
Channel show.)

Mr. McBride¹s guest was Chick Corea, a pianist and composer of extraordinary
range, with whom he has some history. Early in the discussion they touched
on their current tour with the Five Peace Band, jointly led by Mr. Corea and
the guitarist John McLaughlin, which is scheduled to arrive at the Rose
Theater in April. Their rapport was appealingly loose and collegial, except
when Mr. McBride, unlighted cigar in hand, tried to force some sports talk,
and Mr. Corea basically refused to play along.

Mr. Corea offered more on the subject of his childhood in Chelsea, Mass.,
where his father was a successful bandleader. His own musical studies began
at age 4. ³My mother bought an upright piano at a funeral,² he said, adding
dryly, ³She got a good deal.²

At Mr. McBride¹s prompting, he also recalled his first recorded composition,
³Chick¹s Tune.² It would have been useful then to hear a scrap of the song,
but instead Mr. McBride suggested ³Windows,² one of Mr. Corea¹s more
accomplished early pieces.

Of course it was in ³Windows² ‹ and later in ³Matrix,² another selection
from Mr. Corea¹s landmark trio record ³Now He Sings, Now He Sobs² ‹ that the
onstage dialogue was strongest. Both songs underscored the distinctive
chemistry between Mr. Corea, an almost teasingly responsive partner, and Mr.
McBride, an amiable stalwart. The absence of drums meant that there was
plenty of room for resonance, and Mr. McBride took special advantage of it,
filling the air with his dark-maple tone.

There were more missed opportunities ‹ a fruitful tangent about Latin music
yielded no musical illustration, and fusion, a mutual interest, went
unspoken ‹ but during an engaging middle stretch, words and music aligned.

³Someday My Prince Will Come² followed an invocation of Miles Davis, whom
Mr. Corea described seeing at Birdland years before joining that trumpeter¹s
band. (It was one of the songs played that night, he said.) And
³Sophisticated Lady² was offered in tribute to Sarah Vaughan, whom Mr. Corea
fondly recalled accompanying. In each case Mr. McBride steered the action
breezily, with the air of someone accustomed to the task.

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