The audience for Christian McBride & his group Inside Straight went back as far as the eye could see. That’s the great love the group received on Sunday during the 18th DC Jazzfest. Bassist McBride, had in the group drummer Carl Allen, saxophonist Steve Wilson, pianist Peter Martin, and vibraphonist Warren Wolf. The ensemble performed their compositions, opening with McBride’s “Brother Mister” and “Star Being,” with Wolf’s “Sweet Bread” sandwiched in between. What a way to extend to us a vibe of their pure joy of playing together. When band members smile at each other while playing, they are having fun. The smile widens accompanied by head nodding when a member has a solo. What was supposed to be their last number, the guys came back for an encore.
Looking to the side of the stage grooving to McBride and Inside Straight set were several DC Jazzfest artists that had either performed or were set to perform. Marcus and Jean Baylor from the Baylor Project, Emmet Cohen who performed with his trio before McBride came on stage, Orrin Evans, and Aaron Meyers were whom I identified.
After the performance, McBride participated in a Q&A session called “From James Brown to P-Funk to Jazz.” It was moderated by Claude Bailey, law partner at Venable. LLP and DC Jazzfest board member. The conversation began with McBride’s thoughts on the recent passing of keyboardist Joey DeFrancesco, a multi-instrumentalist, composer, radio personality, and Grammy-nominee. They had known each other since their teen years, and both studied at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia.
“He was doing professional gigs around Philly when he was nine,” McBride said about his jazz buddy DeFrancesco. “We remained best friends for 35-plus years.”
McBride credits his Dad and his great-uncle Hal Cooper, both bass players, McBride said with cultivating his love of jazz. Cooper was so excited when he found out that 11-year-old McBride was learning to play acoustic bass.
“He told me to come over to his house and spent the whole day playing jazz albums for me,” McBride recalled. “It was everything. He always played this wide scope of what jazz was.”
That range McBride heard from his great-uncle included Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders, Weather Report, Steve Coleman M-Base, Wynton Marsalis, Horace Silver, Cecil Taylor, and Dizzy Gillespie.
“He never told me to stop listening to contemporary music,” said McBride. “I loved Prince, Michael Jackson, Rick James, and James Brown. I appreciate my family exposing me to a wide range of music.
McBride also let his wide-eyed fans know that his father played with Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria.
One teen fan let out that McBride will sometimes pop up as a Dj of 80s to 90s soul music. If a teen boy figured that out, then McBride’s fans should be able to uncover where to find him spinning records another love of his.
This past February, McBride performed in DC with his “The Movement Revisited,” an inspiring, four-part composition honoring some of the civil rights movement’s heroes. The epic production had words from Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a nod to former President Barack Obama.
Brenda C. Siler on Twitter and Instagram: @bcscomm