Double bass player Christian McBride is not unaware of the way in which recording at the iconic Greenwich Village club is something akin to entering hallowed ground. “You can literally feel the ghosts of all the legends that played there,” he says. “You feel Coltrane hovering in the vortex. You feel Monk hovering in the vortex. Miles Davis, Mingus… you feel all of that in the air.”
And it’s air that McBride has been able to breathe, at first, from 2007, every December for one week a year, and then, when his band’s residency proved so successful, for a fortnight each December.
He still takes his Inside Straight band into the club, but he likes to vary the second week, so this is his trio with drummer Ullyses Owens Jr and pianist Christian Sands.
It is as full of the confident virtuosity and fulsome bonhomie as we have come to expect from the bands and recordings of McBride.
They launch in, all guns blazing, with Wes Montgomery’s Fried Pies, and take in JJ Johnson’s Interlude, Ray Noble’s Cherokee, the gorgeous standard Good Morning Heartache and the traditional Down By The Riverside as well as a Christian Sands original along the way.
And then, of course, there are the tunes by which the total un-snobbishness of McBride is marked: Rod Temperton’s The Lady In My Life gets a dreamy interpretation, a little in the Robert Glasper style but without the poorly ageing hip-hop overtones, while the finale, Norman Whitfield’s theme tune from the film Car Wash, complete with suitably circling disco bass line, is a big belly laugh of a crowd-pleaser.
McBride has chosen trio partners who shoot off so many fireworks that the leader himself sounds almost like the quiet man of the group.
It’s all relative of course. McBride’s astounding speed and accuracy – just listen to his traded fours on Interlude for just one example – leave the jaw well and truly on the parquet, and he is a great leader every bit deserving of his fortnight among the gods.
A terrific example of the happy jazz – no, make that the exuberantly joyful jazz.
Categories: CD review