knows he can tell you about Buddy Miles or Charlie Watts. He thoroughly understands that if hip hop is going to survive it’s going to address some sort of lineage without sounding like a facsimile. With hip hop let’s face it, at any point in history particularly in America, things that are immensely popular aren’t great. A lot of hip hop out there that people know about like Jay Z, Lil’ Wayne, Beyoncé is not where the next hip hop is coming from. It’s what’s happening in Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx and I always felt that those musicians will rise from the gift of longevity. I always felt when this neo-soul thing started happening, everyone was sounding like a Marvin Gaye falsetto. One could make the argument that the same thing happened when Wynton came around, maybe it sounded retro or derivative. I always felt what The Roots, Common and Mos Def have done because they have musicians in their family they bring it to hip hop and soul.” McBride mentions his admiration for a singer who he rates highly. “Avery Sunshine is going to be another innovator; she’s a great writer and well trained and a pianist who draws on everything she has learned.”
Last year McBride played at a concert in New York that was held to celebrate Sonny Rollins’ 80th birthday, a concert now released as Road Shows Vol. 2. During the concert Rollins, McBride and Roy Haynes are joined by surprise guest Ornette Coleman and McBride recalls the spectacular 21-minute version of ‘Sonnymoon For Two’. “We were aware that Ornette might come. Sonny had explained to both Roy and I if he can he’ll come and he sounded pretty confident; what an amazing night to witness it and to be a part of musically.”
You can’t help but feel that although not even 40 until next year McBride, who is used to playing with the jazz greats from previous generation, is one of the great bassists and bandleaders himself, and whose playing, composing and work as an ambassador for the Harlem Jazz Museum makes him stand out in each of these endeavours. But McBride still recalls working in awe with the giants whose shoulders he stands on. “With McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Roy Haynes I sat in the rehearsal room in a state of shock. I couldn’t believe I was playing with these titans; there was a John Coltrane tribute, the centrepiece was the concert. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t call Ron Carter but [they said] ‘you got a youngster’, and this started a great thing, with Joe Henderson, and working with Roy Haynes.”
At Yoshi’s in 2006 on the West Coast for the Half Note label five years after Henderson’s passing, and with Joe Lovano lovingly playing Henderson’s part on an informal recreation of The Real McCoy from 1967, there was a certain meeting of the generations and once again McBride’s foundation-shaking wonderfully musical bass lines are a highlight.
McBride as a member of the Five Peace band (with John McLaughlin and Chick Corea which played the London Jazz Festival three years ago) also made a personal discovery that changed his approach ironically away from jazz rock. “Working with my Vertical Vision band with Geoff and Terreon for so long kind of led to me wanting to put Inside Straight together. Playing with the Five Peace was everything I could have hoped for in my own band. After working with a band like that there was no need to go back to doing a jazz rock thing; there’s nowhere else to go, so I did Inside Straight.” McBride agrees that the big band is its extension. “The big band could be a bigger version of Inside Straight.”
In Harlem McBride is involved in the National Jazz Museum as co-director with Loren Schoenberg. “The overall goal was to have an all-inclusive global overview about the black American jazz tradition. We will be featuring multi-cultural experiences, but we do not wish to send some air of exclusivity. People get turned off because sometimes there’s a sense of hierarchy. We don’t want to preach to the choir.
“Loren is a major historian up through the 1940s and I think of myself as knowing my jazz history from the 40s to the present day. And between the two of us we cover the different styles and Loren knows my background playing with hip hop and classical artists. We’re programming 12 different programmes and just about to move across the street from the Apollo theatre.”
He says he’d love to be asked to take part in fundraising concerts for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign next year. “There’s a terrible polarisation between the parties that happened before Obama. It started to happen with the Clinton era. I think the conservative party has become nasty and evil. There used to be a time when republicans and democrats sat down and talked about politics like sport, you disagreed but you could still agree on the love of baseball.” As for the future of jazz he says that nobody can predict where things can go. “If we could we would just go there. You’ve got to be prepared to improvise. If it doesn’t go quite as you think, you got to roll with it.”
27 Jazzwise \\ NOVEMBER11