By: Ron Hart
The last decade has seen Philadelphia jazz bass virtuoso Christian McBride expand his boundaries beyond traditional bop by experimenting with a myriad of different tones and textures, from fresh hip hop breakbeats on his amazing 2001 collaboration with fellow Philly musicians keyboardist Uri Cane and Roots drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson as The Philadelphia Experiment to Latin rhythms on his 2003 Warner Bros. Debut, Vertical Vision, to Miles style electric voodoo on his 2006 triple-disc live set at the sorely-missed Lower East Side jazz club Tonic. However, McBride always seems most at home when he's in classic jazz mode, which makes his debut on the Mack Avenue label such a treat. Showcasing his new quintet, Inside Straight - vibraphonist Warren Wolf, Jr., modern sax great Steve Wilson, pianist Eric Reed and drummer Carl Allen - the album pays homage to two of his biggest heroes, bassist Ray Brown and one of his first bosses, the recently departed trumpet guru Freddie Hubbard, on his most traditional work since 2006's New York Time.
However, sonically speaking, Kind of Brown is an album that will surely take jazz heads back to their favorite Blue Note-era Bobby Hutcherson titles like 1969's Now! and 1974's Cirrus, particularly in the interplay between Wolf and Wilson on compositions like "Rainbow Wheel" and "The Shade of the Cedar Tree," an ode to McBride's New York Time bandmate and hard bop great Cedar Walton. As a bassist, McBride himself displays his strong allegiance to the work of Charles Mingus on the stirring tribute to his old boss, the late Freddie Hubbard, via Hub’s 1978 homage to basketball great Kareem Abdul Jabar entitled “Theme for Kareem” (check the hot solo around the 4:00 mark) and the luscious "Pursuit of Peace," a tight workout that really projects this Philly boy's growth as a leader in his own right. Coupled with amazing cover art courtesy of illustrator Keith Henry Brown and designer Raj Naik, Kind of Brown is easily one of the finest new jazz releases of 2009.
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