Tuesday, February 16, 2010

KEY TO THE CITY

Bassist, bandleader, and composer Christian McBrideI'm not much for making predictions, Christian. I feel confident, however, making one that I'm sure other jazz fans would agree with. When the new jazz history books are written, about the accomplished musicians of your generation, you will be talked about not only as a first-rate bassist but also a gifted composer. I will bet money on that. At the halfway mark of your career, you're writing compositions and suites that are just as good as those written by Oliver Nelson, Horace Silver, Wayne Shorter and Duke Ellington. Christian, I dogged "Kind of Brown," your debut album for Mack Avenue Records. I'm not trying to make amends by comparing you to those great jazz composers.

Sunday, evening, I attended the concert The Movement Revisited: A Jazz Opus at Second Ebenezer Church. And like the majority of the capacity crowd, I was blown away. The suite you composed with the help of recording artist and record producer J.D. Steele commemorating the legacy of Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali was remarkable. I don't know if I was stricken with the Holy Ghost because I haven't been to church in three decades, and I wouldn't recognize the Holy Spirit if it whacked me upside the head. All I know was during the second and third movement I felt a strong urge to dance up and down the isle flailing my arms, but I managed to contain my composure. I didn't want to embarrass myself.

Anyway, Christian you did a fine job and your working band Inside Straight blended perfectly with the Majestic Voices choir. I set next to your pal Terri Pontremoli, the director of the Detroit International Jazz Festival. When vibe player Warren Wolf soloed, Pontremoli grabbed my lleft arm and said: That guy is a monster. I agreed unequivocally. And the same should be said about saxophonist Ron Blake, who in my humble opinion is the best saxophonist on earth. Blake has the complete package. The crowd cheered after his solos like they were inside a jazz club instead of a church.

Christian, I wasn't going to mention the concert started almost 45 minutes late. However, it wouldn't be right commenting only on what I enjoyed, and ignoring what annoyed me. Bishop Edgar L. Vann II, ticked me off delaying the concert while his ushers passed around collection plates. Hitting people up for a donation at a free concert was tacky. Walking to my assigned seat, I wondered what the gold buckets hanging on the benches were for. They looked like Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets dipped in gold. Later, I discovered the buckets were the collection plates. Christian, I wondered if Vann II was joking when he said the preacher has to get his money first, or if he was serious.

Once I thought about becoming a Christian, but I decided not to. It cost too much. I can't afford to fork over 10% of my earnings. I wonder if nowadays, if you have to have a certain credit score to join a church. There's this palatial church in Southfield, MI that will not baptize you if your credit score is under 700. Christian, I'm probably bound for hell criticizing Vann II. I accept my fate. I hear there are better jazz clubs in Hell. Vann II, on a positive note, did a great job of portraying Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, he was the best of the four narrators. The cat that portrayed Malcolm X was miscast. The narration was overkill. Without it the performance still would've been powerful.

Christian, at some point, you should be given a key to the city of Detroit. Whenever, you come here, you bring something wonderful. In 2008, you did a fabulous job as the Artist in Residence for the Detroit jazz fest. The following year, you unveiled your knew band Inside Straight, and became one of the most accomplished musician and bandleader signed to Mack Avenue Records. I anxious to see what you have in store for us the next time you come to Detroit.
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