UK Echoes Album of the Month: “Prime” by Christian McBride’s New Jawn

Kevin Le Gendre for UK Echoes

Jazz Album of the Month: 

Christian McBride New Jawn

Prime [Mack Avenue]

Throughout his illustrious 30-year careers, bassist/bandleader Christian McBride has largely kept his acoustic and electric projects separate; but if they operate in distinct sound worlds, they have never been entirely disconnected, conceptually. The blues crosses lines, like an irresistible force for good. And this fine album shows how its close cousins, soul and funk, are as powerful in an unplugged environment as they are in a plugged in one. The airy clarity of McBride’s chord-free quartet, benefitting from members who are both strong individuals and team players, makes the moments when the leader and master drummer Nasheet Waits lock into a groove all the more memorable. The slow, slouching vamp of Head Bedlam as as hard hitting as an of the highlights of 2000’s Sci-Fi while the zestful swing heard elsewhere keeps alive the spirt of Cannonball Adderley, whom McBride has referenced many times before. Trumpeter Josh Evans and saxophonist Marcus Strickland form an excellent horn section, stoking a free-ish fire on occasion, but the latter’s bass clarinet ostinatos make a big impact insofar as they lend more heft to the low register as well as enriching the harmonic palette. Although largely perceived as a straight ahead champion, McBride has always been pleasingly eclectic, and his absorption of the avant-garde flourishes of Mingus, Max and Dolphy leads him down long, winding, interesting roads here.