Christian McBride Big Band with Melissa Walker (vocals)
Given that this is McBride's first-ever time at leading a big band, the results are laudable. The bass player leads his seventeen-man band through an almost even split of self-penned pieces and standards. He had already written for small groups but the larger aggregation was a challenge, one met via contacts, study and a strong awareness of the genre asRead more well as its leading practitioners, both living and dead.
The disc opens with a steamer,
Shake `N' Blake, written for tenor and soprano saxophonist Ron Blake, but don't overlook Nicholas Payton's blistering trumpet solo. Things slow to a daring tempo for the Basie cum Buck Clayton style
Broadway which is enlivened by nice voicings, whilst Steve Wilson turns in some angular alto on the loping
Brother Mister. McBride's own
Science Fiction is an expansion of his small group original, and we find plenty of colour, texture and tempo changes, variations that keep things alive and interesting. At points it even gets quite wild.
Melissa Walker takes the vocal honours, very pleasingly and fluently, though not with overmuch personality. There's a good example of a superior bit of arranging in
The More I See You which opens with piano and vocal, then segues into a `Live at The Sands' feel. McBride is honest enough to claim that his own solo on
I Should Care was `sleepy', though we may feel inclined to disbelieve him.
A Taste of Honey is a vocal based on the Oliver Nelson arrangement but perhaps more interesting still is the funky blues of
Bluesin' In Alphabet City, a fine swinger with an excellent trumpet/bass interlude. The final track,
In A Hurry, is predictably fast and furious and features a gutsy and vibrant trombone chase.
Some of the foregoing should indicate how and why McBride has crafted so successful an album. Some of NYC's finest sit in the band, which bids fair to stand in the lineage of Buck Clayton's bands, of which there could be no higher praise.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International Read less