Christian McBride Trio, 'Live At The Village Vanguard,' Mack Avenue Records (REVIEW)
Obviously influenced by Pittsburgh bassist Ray Brown (who distinguished himself with Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald before leading his own trios), Philadelphia bassist Christian McBride, known as "The Lord Of The Lower Frequencies," has expanded his vernacular. He's already led a swinging big-band and a progressive quintet (Inside Straight) after distinguishing himself with Chick Corea and Wynton Marsalis. Now we can add the trio format to his impressive resume. What better venue in the world today to display his wares than the hallowed Greenwich Village basement of The Village Vanguard downtown New York City where you can almost feel the ghosts of John Coltrane and Dinah Washington? Live At The Village Vanguard (Mack Avenue Records) preserves the best of what must have been three nights to remember. (It's always a night to remember when you walk down those fabled stairs.)
Wes Montgomery's 1963 "Fried Pies" gets this party grooving quick. Pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. have their hands full but come through mightily. Their valor is tested even more on Ray Noble's 1938 "Cherokee" which is taken at breakneck speed as is JJ Johnson's 1965 "Interlude."
There's also time for humor. "Car Wash," "Down By The Riverside" and Michael Jackson's "The Lady In My Life" are three examples of non-jazz compositions made ecstatic by a wink, a nod, a smile and, most of all, impeccable chops. The crowd responds in kind. The highlight, though, has to be a Monk Mysterioso-styled reading of Billie Holiday's "Good Morning Heartache." All of a sudden, you can hear the proverbial pin drop when a kind of a hush settles on the room. Even ice cubes stop tinkling in glasses. I can just see McBride now, dramatically pulling out his bow and playing so soft and sweet that heartbreaking melody forever associated with Lady Day. It's a serene, sublime moment that must have given the patrons goose bumps.