Christian McBride and Inside Straight – Jazzfest highlights June 30

Acclaimed jazz bassist Christian McBride and his quintet Inside Straight played Thursday to an eager crowd of about 350 at the Alix Goolden Hall. McBride, who isn’t even 40 yet, was a teenage prodigy in New York as a teenager at Juliard, when he started being a hired gun in New York’s jazz world. He has played with the best of the best over his 20+ year career, including Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Diana Krall, James Brown and the Roots just to name a few. Both his father and uncle were also both bassists who mentored McBride.

Early in the band’s set McBride joked about the fact that he had played in Victoria several times in the early to mid nineties but the festival hadn’t had him back since 1998. He wondered what it would take for the Jazzfest  get him back. During the band’s intial set, the band played several songs from their 2009 debut Kind of Brown, including Brother Mister  and Theme for Kareem. The first two songs featured incredible dueling vibes and drums and bass/drums. But this was nothing like a rap battle. The guys kept it clean and in good fun, demonstrated by the huge grins on their faces, especially from McBride and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., which remained for the entire evening.

The performance of the night was McBride’s self described “greasy” composition Used ‘Ta Could, in which McBride competed with Bootsy Collins for one of the funkiest basslines I have ever heard. The track was influences by summer barbecues in the ghetto, which McBride proclaimed could never happen in Manhattan. Drummer Owens Jr. solo showed incredible versatility and energy, obviously loving what he does immensely.

Vibraphonist Warren Wulf, to whom McBride attributed the forming of Inside Straight, was a phenomenal sight and sound for fans of the instrument such as myself. He is now in demand as one of the most talented vibraphonists in the world.

Following the incredibly funky Used ‘Ta Could, the band downsized to a trio and performed Where Are You, a mellow, piano led number seemingly opposite in tone, but the quality of musicianship was so good, no one in the audience minded and listened attentively to the mellow, contemplative vibe.

Note to Darryl Mar and the VJS: Please bring this band back very soon! One of my favorite shows of the festival without question…

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