Review: Christian McBride & Inside Straight "People Music"

Through his sax-and-vibes straightahead quintet, Inside Straight, Christian McBride has worked hard to draw in and connect with audiences not attuned to jazz— especially live, via his infectious personality, passion, and stage presence.
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Through his sax-and-vibes straightahead quintet, Inside Straight, Christian McBride has worked hard to draw in and connect with audiences not attuned to jazz— especially live, via his infectious personality, passion, and stage presence. On the group’s sophomore effort, titled for its mantra, the concept continues, while the music remains pure post-bop. “Listen to Heroes Cry” boasts a memorable spiritual strain over modal medium swing; “Gang Gang,” by vibist Warren Wolf Jr., interjects classical elements into its 12/8 bounce, à la the Modern Jazz Quartet; and McBride’s Whitney Houston- dedicated “New Hope’s Angel” is introspective while maintaining a funky pop backbeat. Throughout, Christian leads with strong support and engaging solos; he is, after all, on a mission.

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HE’S 37 YEARS OLD AND HAS WON A GRAMMY, BEEN COMPARED TO RAY BROWN on upright, toured with Chick Corea and John McLaughlin on electric, gotten first-call treatment from both hardcore jazzers (Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner) and pop stars (Sting), arranged for orchestras, directed the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, obtained artist residencies at the Detroit and Monterey Jazz Festivals, and even conducted his own radio show about jazz and—wait for it—sports. But for Philly native Christian McBride, being referred to as one of the masters still evokes incredulity. “Are you kidding? I’m still the young phenom,” he says, chortling. “I can feel it now. I’ll be 70, and all those old jazz writers are gonna be going, Young Christian McBride, in his brief career . . . .”

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