‘Saving the best til last’ is how the Melbourne International Jazz Festival announced legendary bassist Christian McBride on the festival’s closing night. McBride opened his Sunday night performance at the Jazzlab by explaining that ‘New Jawn’, the name of his new group, is Philadelphian slang for ‘new thing’.
This show was number three of four full-house performances by Chris McBride and the New Jawn at The Melbourne International Jazz Festival. One of the most in-demand and regularly recorded virtuosos of the last 25 years, McBride has played with Sonny Rollins, James Brown, Diana Krall, Sting and The Roots.
McBride was accompanied by two horns and drums (no keys), performing music referencing jazz from the 50’s til today, occasionally wonderfully reminiscent of the classic Ornette Coleman quartet.
The five times Grammy awarded McBride was joined by Josh Evans on trumpet, the accomplished Marcus Strickland on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, and brilliant drummer Nasheet Waits, McBride effortlessly and joyfully lead the band through an atmospheric set paying tribute to the culture of traditional jazz and to the civil rights history of the USA. McBride’s mastery of his instrument demonstrated complete control of technique, his bass functioning as an extension of his mind and body. His band leadership was generous – equally sharing both the compositions and the limelight with the other members of his quartet.
Featuring at times musical compositions with original and often dramatically-bowed beginnings and endings, tunes such as Brother Malcolm, honouring Black rights leader Malcolm X, and Ballad of Ern Washington (a wry tribute to pianist/composer Thelonius Monk’s non-de-plume which allowed him to work when his New York City cabaret card was cancelled thus restricting his capacity to perform in the city), evoked a landscape characterised by intelligent musical storytelling with a ‘literary’ narrative.
You didn’t miss a piano at this show. Waits’s percussion combined melodic drumming in lock-step with McBride’s inventive bass playing – the rhythm section was all about finding new rhythmic conversations, drawing on the pioneering percussion of modern giants such as Max Roach and Tony Williams. Overheard post-performance was a description of New Jawn’s music as ‘intelligent, cinematic music,’ to which drummer Waits responded ‘that was the goal.’
2018 Melbourne International Jazz Festival
Christian McBride’s New Jawn
Venue: The Jazzlab | 27 Leslie Street, Brunswick VIC
Dates: 9 – 10 June 2018
Tickets: $79 – $89