One of the most intellectual works of music from the past five years has to be Joshua Redman’s RoundAgain, which was released in 2020 and features three top jazz intellectuals: Brian Blade, Brad Mehldau, and Christian McBride. The last is a bassist with a reputation and recording history that are simply impeccable. He has worked with the best names in the business, and plays with a command that’s intellectual in the holistic sense. With McBride, there is no line between thought and expression: They are one and the same thing.
Those who might be a bit bewildered by this claim (or not appreciate its significance) must recall that the world of jazz (and classical, for that matter) has lots and lots and lots of intellectual players who can’t translate their recondite thinking into a feeling that nimbly swings. This, I think, was John Coltrane’s achievement with Giant Steps (1960). He was the first to make technical rigor, complexity, and soul one. This is the genius of McBride’s art of the bass. There’s no resistance in the conduction of thought to the fingertips, fingertips to the instrument, and instrument to the sound your soul feels.
Christian McBride plays with his new band at Jazz Alley Jun 14 & 15 at 7:30 pm.