RESPECT FOR ELDERS: In jazz, even for dabblers
and armchair fans, Christian McBride is one of
those names everyone needs to know. The friendly, commanding
bassist belonged to a second generation of “young lions” in the
early ’90s, alongside Joshua
and Brad
, all of whom played together at various times.
mcbride_christian.gifThey represented the next wave of
virtuosic jazz voices, just as Wynton Marsalis and his ilk had
seized jazz a decade earlier. But while Marsalis has stuck to his
all-acoustic, all-retro outlook, McBride and Redman have mixed
straight-ahead, left-of-center, and, lately, electro-acoustic
stylings. (Mehldau has resisted the temptation to leave the
timeless acoustic piano terrain, apart from his intriguing
experiment, Largo).

A ubiquitous and versatile figure, McBride
is liable to show up seemingly in two places at once, on opposite
coasts, with different instruments. Tonight at the Lobero Theatre, we find him blissfully
unplugged, helming a bold trio with pianist Benny
and drummer Gregory Hutchinson to
pay respects to the late, great bassist Ray
. McBride last took the Lobero stage in 2005 as one-third
of the limber power trio led by Pat Metheny, along with drummer
Anthony Sanchez. That was a night to savor.

In the last six months, McBride has shown up twice at the
Hollywood Bowl, as part of his current gig as jazz programmer for
the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In July, he led his own funkified,
Weather Report-y electric jazz band, warming up for Herbie Hancock,
and in September led a big band and sat in with Mr. Ja-a-a-a-a-ames Brown, three
months before the Godfather’s passing on Christmas Day. Last night
(January 17), he was presiding over an all-star tribute to Horace Silver at the Walt Disney
Concert Hall. McBride clearly has respect for his elders, be it the
late Jaco Pastorius, the father of funk James Brown, or spiritual
and stylistic mentor Ray Brown, who championed young McBride early

I heard McBride a few times in the odd, fascinating
trio with Ray Brown and John Clayton at the Lionel
Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho, and the sound was genuinely
inimitable and striking. If the three-bass hit suggests a
gimmick — an equal-time proposition for musicians normally stuck in
the back of the bandstand — it was much more: Brown was clearly the
group’s foundation — not the flashiest technician of the three, but
incurably musical, and also a strong influence on his younger bass
mates. Tonight’s Tribute to Ray Brown promises to be heartfelt and
heady, with sweetness on the side, just like Ray.

FRINGE PRODUCTS: Rumors of Bill_Charlap.jpgthe jazz record industry’s demise have
been at least slightly exaggerated. Yes, something strange and
ominous is happening in the jazz biz, when reissues by bygone
masters outsell the new work of living, breathing, blowing jazz
players; when Blue Note and Verve are tilting toward poppier,
higher-selling artists; and when many are jumping on the artist-run
label/Internet marketing bandwagon.

Then there are the thankfully stubborn, small indie labels, such
as High Note (formerly
Muse), benefiting from the fallout of major label indifference and
putting out solid new titles by artists lacking proper
representation elsewhere. Two highly recommended new High Note
titles are drummer-composer Billy Hart’s excellent Quartet, the
sharp ensemble interplay-driven session featuring pianist Ethan
Iverson (from Bad Plus)
and sure-shooting saxophonist Mark Turner, and highlighted by
Hart’s underrated cerebral swing and choice tune-smithing; and a
cool, luscious duet by the lovably elegant hip pianist Bill
and veteran saxist Houston Person, You
Taught My Heart to Sing
. Listen to their graceful, witty
workouts on McCoy Tyner’s title tune, “S’Wonderful,” and especially
the heart-melting read on “Where Is Love,” and you understand why
these are two of the finer players in the game. (Also check out
Charlap’s fine 2005 Gershwin
on Blue Note).

Jazz, the greatest of America’s cultural inventions, will never
die, but it keeps finding new nooks and underground channels in
which to grow and prosper. Listen up. (Got e?


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