Christian McBride - Kind of Brown (Mack Avenue, 2009)
After several years playing electric jazz and fusion, which culminated in an epic three disc live album, bassist Christian McBride shifted gears and returned to straight up acoustic jazz with in a quartet he calls Inside Straight with Eric Reed on piano, Steve Wilson on alto saxophone, Warren Wolf on vibraphone and Carl Allen on drums. McBride states that his goal for this project was to find solid melodies with chord changes that offered a lot of opportunity for the musicians to improvise. They are quite successful in fulfilling that stated goal, making meat and potatoes jazz in a classy and unpretentious manner. Freddie Hubbard’s “Theme for Kareem” has some knotty ensemble playing and fine soloing. The following “Rainbow Wheel” is another up-tempo performance that allows the band a lot of room for self expression. “Shade of the Cedar Tree” reprises an older McBride composition at a jaunty medium tempo trot, with a nice vibraphone feature for Wolf. The high point of the album for me came with “Stick and Move” which was a wonderful go for broke jam that allows everyone to stretch out and dig in for a very exciting performance. It is nice to hear McBride playing in an acoustic setting again, his big, thick tone which is inspired by his mentor Ray Brown is at the center of the action here, providing an axis for all the musicians an improvisations to revolve. Warren Wolf makes the most of his debut recording, with some excellent solos and a wonderful feel and sense of texture on the vibes. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more from him soon. Overall this was a fine mainstream jazz album, and I hope this group is able to stick together as a working unit.