When great musicians push themselves to do something different, it can be an exciting prospect. Christian McBride's New Jawn is a great example of that. And when those musicians really enjoy that challenge, that's when the magic of jazz happens.
After a pair of successful trio albums and a Grammy-winning big band release a year ago, McBride's latest outfit is pianoless. In the tradition of similar bands, such as Ornette Coleman's two-horns-bass-and-drums quartet, the lack of chordal instruments seems to free up each player and challenge them at the same time.
The heart of the New Jawn ("jawn" is to Philadelphia what "joint" is to director Spike Lee, it's a "person, place or thing”) is the combination of McBride's solid bass work and the rapid-fire drumming of Nasheet Waits. Though they've known each other for years, this band marks their first opportunity to play together.
Marcus Strickland's lean tenor sax and Joshua Evans' bright trumpet added beauty and ferocity in equal measure, and we heard original songs for the session performance from both of them. McBride says, "Eight of the 9 songs on the album are originals."
The wildest song of the session was Nasheet Waits' "Ke-Kelli Sketch", written for his wife. When the relationship was new, she saw Waits perform with a particularly intense group, and she loved it. After you hear this song, you'll know how cool Kelli is.
Look for the New Jawn album on October 26th from McBride's own imprint for Mack Avenue Records, Brother Mister Productions.
After he told us he'd like to help produce and release music from other artists on this label, I asked if we should think of him as the new Quincy Jones. "I'm gonna need a new Michael Jackson," he said.