CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE LAUNCHES MACK AVENUE MUSIC GROUP IMPRINT, BROTHER MISTER PRODUCTIONS, WITH EPONYMOUS DEBUT RELEASE FROM NEW QUARTET
Christian McBride's New Jawn: Available October 26 via Brother Mister Productions
Band Features Trumpeter Josh Evans, Saxophonist Marcus Strickland, and Drummer Nasheet Waits.
Jawn [jän]: noun. A slang terminology from Philadelphia. All-purpose term for a person, place or thing.
Sure, Christian McBride could have called his new ensemble the Christian McBride Quartet or the Christian McBride Group, or any number of other, somewhat more straitlaced variations on that basic theme. But this new chordless quartet – with trumpeter Josh Evans, saxophonist Marcus Strickland, and drummer Nasheet Waits – arrives with a bit too much grit under its fingernails to warrant a name quite that buttoned up.
If there’s one thing the acclaimed bassist knows, it’s that when it comes to grit there’s no better resource to draw from than his own hometown, Philadelphia. So, McBride turned to one of the city’s most beloved colloquialisms to christen his latest project, Christian McBride’s New Jawn. On the band’s eponymous debut, these four stellar musicians ably walk the razor’s edge between thrilling virtuosity and gut-punch instinctiveness. The release will be available on October 26 via Brother Mister Productions, McBride’s own newly launched imprint of his longtime label, Mack Avenue Records.
“I was looking for a new challenge,” says McBride of the birth of the New Jawn. “I don’t get the chance too often to play in a chordless group. Every major group I’ve been a part of for the last ten years, whether it’s been with Pat Metheny or Chick Corea or my own projects, there’s been nothing but chords. So, I wanted to see what happens if I just pull the chords out altogether.”
The result is a surprisingly bracing and adventurous outing for McBride. A world-renowned bassist regularly lauded as a musician who can do anything, he proves it yet again by venturing into new territory. New Jawn runs the gamut of stylistic approaches, from deep-rooted swing to daring abstraction, singular blues to exquisite balladry. At the core of it all is McBride’s trademark sound, robust and embracing, agile and inventive.
The New Jawn came together during McBride’s annual two-week residency at NYC’s iconic Village Vanguard in December 2015. The regular gig allows him the luxury to experiment, and this quartet was an idea that clicked, continuing to surprise and provoke each other to new heights over the ensuing years on the road.
McBride had just brought his revered trio with pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. to a close, as Sands’ increasing reputation as a leader in his own right was making the band increasingly untenable. It’s a challenge McBride, with his impeccable ear for talent, has faced time and again – and which he fully expects to confront before long with his impressive new trumpet discovery.
“It was the same thing when I started my quintet Inside Straight and I hired this young dude named Warren Wolf to play vibes,” McBride says, “and when I started my trio and hired this young guy named Christian Sands to come play with me. You’re watching this young talent bloom right in front of your very eyes. I think what you hear is potential; you know there’s something there that’s not quite fully formed yet, but you know it’s without a doubt going to get there.”
A native of Hartford, CT, Evans was one of the final protégés of the legendary Jackie McLean. He’s gone on to play with such elders as Rashied Ali, Cedar Walton, Oliver Lake, Billy Harper and Benny Golson, and record with a wide range of artists from Orrin Evans to Kenny Barron to Mark Turner. His emotional range can be heard on his own “Ballad of Ernie Washington,” named for the pseudonym that Thelonious Monk used when his cabaret card was revoked in the mid-50s; and the keen-edged “Pier One Import.”
Strickland and McBride have crossed paths many times over the years, with the saxophonist occasionally stepping into the ranks of the Christian McBride Band during that ensemble’s waning days, and the two sharing the bandstand often with drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. “I’ve always thought of Marcus as the heir apparent to Branford Marsalis,” McBride says, a lineage that comes through strongly on Strickland’s boisterous “The Middle Man.” The saxophonist also contributes “Seek the Source,” a simmering twist on the blues.
Surprisingly, Waits and McBride had only shared the stage a single time prior to getting together at the Vanguard that week, despite a friendship that stretches back more than 20 years. “Nasheet is a constant creative vortex,” McBride says. “Be it playing time, playing inside the time or outside the time or no time, it’s always creative. Having known him for a long time but not having played with him much, I was looking forward to the unknown.”
Despite that lack of experience, the pair’s strong hook-up can be heard out of the gate on McBride’s “Walkin’ Funny,” which starts the record off on a tongue-in-cheek note. The staggering rhythm implies a drunken, unsteady gait while maintaining a complex lock-step, humorously setting the pace for the album’s melding of the intricate and the spirited. The incredible freedom allowed by the chordless setting becomes audaciously evident on Waits’ “Ke-Kelli Sketch,” a portrait of the drummer’s wife that feels like an aural Picasso.
Waits’ hazy, elegant “Kush,” which he’s previously recorded with his own band Equality and with pianist Ethan Iverson, is taken at a languid tempo that lends the tune the feel of a stoned Strayhorn. The band luxuriates in the unhurried pace, playing with a beautiful grace and vulnerability. McBride’s “John Day” pays tribute to a childhood friend from West Philly who, he says, “would have definitely called this group a jawn.” The album closes with Wayne Shorter’s “Sightseeing,” a blistering sprint that has stayed in the band’s book since its formation.
Call something a “jawn” in Philly, and everyone will know that whatever you’re talking about has a certain hip cachet, a heavy dose of soul, and a generous helping of what in the City of Brotherly Love is known as “atty-tood.” Christian McBride’s New Jawn has all of that to spare.
For more information on Christian McBride, please visit: ChristianMcBride.com
MACK AVENUE MUSIC GROUP AND CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE ANNOUNCE PARTNERSHIP IN NEW IMPRINT: BROTHER MISTER PRODUCTIONS
Photo credit: Fran Kaufman
Christian McBride is expanding his unparalleled career as bassist, bandleader, composer, arranger, radio host, artistic director, mentor, DJ, and educator, to include label co-founder and executive with the announcement of Brother Mister Productions – an imprint that represents the next step in his long-standing relationship with premier record company Mack Avenue Music Group.
The imprint's namesake quotes the legendary James Brown, who would often use the prefix "Brother," or "Mister." At his most casual, the rare prefix "Brother Mister" would be used. Brown first bestowed that honor on McBride when he was Music Director of what turned out to be Mr. Brown’s final concert in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl in September of 2006. "I remember when we were rehearsing for the Hollywood Bowl concert and he just casually asked me a question. He started off his question with 'Brother Mister McBride,' and I’m not even sure he realized he said it, but I sure noticed it! I couldn’t stop smiling." McBride said.
“Christian has been an inspiring creative partner for Mack Avenue. His body of work with Inside Straight, the trio, the big band, and the recently formed New Jawn, just to name a few, is beyond impressive. Taking our relationship to this next level and working with him on Brother Mister Productions is logical, invigorating, and provides a platform for Brother Mister himself to spread his wings even further,” says Mack Avenue Music Group President Denny Stilwell. The record company, which garnered an unprecedented eight GRAMMY® Award-nominations for the 2018 Award ceremony (including wins for McBride, Cécile McLorin Salvant, and Billy Childs), is home to five other imprints: Artistry Music, Rendezvous Music, Sly Dog Records, MaxJazz, and Detroit Music Factory.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d have an imprint. I’m grateful to Mack Avenue for the opportunity to spotlight current and future projects I’m excited about,” says McBride. The bassist is quickly establishing himself as the current face of jazz with his NPR-distributed radio show, “Jazz Night in America,” his SiriusXM radio show, “The Lowdown: Conversations with Christian,” and his recent appointment as the Artistic Director of the historic Newport Jazz Festival. He also holds many other Artistic Directorships: NJPAC, Jazz House Kids, JAS Aspen Summer Academy, and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. He’s also started a career as a club DJ with the moniker DJ Brother Mister.
The inaugural release will be the bassist’s own Christian McBride’s New Jawn, the first album from his newest group featuring trumpeter Josh Evans, saxophonist Marcus Strickland, and drummer Nasheet Waits, which is being released on October 26, 2018. Subsequent releases are expected to include both well-established and developing artists.