Christian McBride Strips It Down to a Trio
How does Christian McBride keep making albums? Between the PBS gig and the constant touring, whether as bandleader or sideman, it’s a wonder he gets anything else done. And he’s got another album out, Out Here, on Mack Avenue, a trio project of all things with Christian Sands on piano and Ulysses Owens on drums. This particular configuration took shape when Steve Wilson and Warren Wolf couldn’t make an Inside Straight gig and instead of calling out for subs, McBride decided to do the show as a trio. First thought, best thought. Conceptually, it pretty much follows the same tangent as McBride’s latest album of originals with Inside Straight, People Music. If that was the party, this is the afterparty. It’s a blues album, more or less.
They open by sneaking their way into the minor blues Ham Hocks & Cabbage – Owens crashes a bit, McBride walks, Sands pounces a little, underscoring Owens’ emphatic solo. I Guess I’ll Have to Forget gets an expansve, low-key bolero simmer, McBride’s wry tiptoeing solo handing off to an impressionistic, Debussyesque Sands – and they then join voices and raise the dance. Easy Walker starts out genial, with a slow build, and then they swing it with a Wouldn’t You Be Nice to Come Home To vibe.
While My Favorite Things might seem a nonsensical choice without the sax, they reinvent it as an explosive romp: THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS, DAMMIT! East of the Sun & West of the Moon works its way slowly into a spacious, syncopated swing, a vehicle for precise, animated McBride solos. Cherokee messes up the tempos with Sands’ wicked, blistering solos, McBride’s solo trading with the drums and offering relief from the red-zone intensity. More bitter than sweet, I Have Dreamed sees McBride bowing somberly over wary, judicious piano, a stark contrast with what preceded it. The album winds up with Who’s Making Love and its pulsing Another One Rides the Bus vibe, and seems like it could be a lark until a solid, hard-hitting, bluesy Sands solo. The one track here that sounds like an alternate take is the rapidfire Hallelujah Time – they come soooooo close to nailing it but don’t quite hit it, and given that they’re confident enough to tackle it at all at such high velocity, it’s a good bet that another take would have been the one.
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