By Franklin Abbott

Christian McBride, four-time Grammy winning bass player, will perform this Saturday, April 29, with his trio at Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points. McBride is one of the most recognized and recorded bass players in jazz, R&B and pop having performed with artists as diverse as James Brown, Celine Dion, Renee Fleming and Sonny Rollins.

McBride recently collaborated with Laurie Anderson who he met through their mutual friend Gina Gershon. The two improvised a program with Anderson on keyboard, violin and sound effects and McBride on bass. He describes the experience as simply “wonderful” and adds that he had once played with Anderson’s late husband Lou Reed at the Village Vanguard.

McBride says he shies away from telling people what jazz is. He says the best way to experience any kind of music is to get in touch with the emotion of it. He invites his audience to let their guard down, “come and be as open as you possibly can.” He has more to say about his instrument the bass. He says the bass is there to remind the band of the topic, to “remember what we are here to talk about.” He calls the bass “the guardian of the song.”

Born and raised in Philadelphia, McBride was mentored by his bass playing father and uncle and was recognized as a prodigy. He was very much influenced by the R&B Philly Sound but moved quickly into touring with some of the biggest names in jazz. He calls his instrument “tuned drums” and says that the bass is the foundation, the riverbed, something more felt than heard. He compares the bass to the engine of a car, “when it’s working you don’t hear it.” And while McBride often plays under the piano and drums of his gifted trio-mates he comes out in dazzling solos. “Jazz,” he says, “is a conversation and not just with the band but with the audience.” On his current tour McBride and his trio, Tip City, are performing new music that he just finished composing.

The creative process comes in the middle of the night to McBride. He says, “I don’t think my wife likes it but my ideas come in the hours before twilight when there are no interruptions.” He says inspiration comes from many places and that he is “always thinking about music,” that he is “driven by sound all day long.” He is also inspired by art and mentions Jackson Pollock and Alvin Ailey as artists whose work he greatly respects. McBride is excited to be performing in Atlanta, a city where he has lots of friends. He says Atlanta is a city where “he is never a stranger.” Eclectic soul music pioneer Khari Cabral Simmons opens the evening.

Frequent contributor Franklin Abbott’s new CD of music and poetry, “Don’t Go Back To Sleep: New Songs and Collected Poems,” is available now at this link.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.