Christian McBride

Live at Tonic

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When bassist Christian McBride first emerged on the jazz scene, he was a youthful phenomenon who seemed set to follow in the footsteps of his early inspiration, Ray Brown. However, McBride has too much talent to merely want to be a copy of the past and, although he can swing as hard as any bebop bassist, his interests go beyond straight-ahead jazz into funk, fusion, and more adventurous improvising. Live at Tonic is a three-CD set that contains highlights from his opening sets during two nights at Tonic on the first disc, and his complete second sets on discs two and three. It is clear, after hearing the first couple of numbers, that McBride loves funk and stretching out. The first disc has his regular quartet with tenor-saxophonist Ron Blake, keyboardist Geoff Keezer, and drummer Terreon Gully digging into eight numbers, including Weather Report's "Boogie Woogie Waltz" and some straight-ahead jamming. The second disc has the group augmented by guest pianist Jason Moran, violinist Jenny Scheinman, and guitarist Charlie Hunter, while the third has guests on trumpet, guitar, boom box, and turntables. Unfortunately, the songs (particularly on the second and third CDs) are not of very high quality and the funk seems to go on forever, particularly on the 29-minute "See Jam, Hear Jam, Feel Jam." Each set has lengthy (definitely lengthy) introductions of the musicians over endless vamps that would be extremely difficult to sit through twice. More is definitely less on this three-CD set, which would have benefited greatly from being two or even one CD, cutting out the excess of fat and the long "vamp till ready" sections. There are some good moments along the way and the musicians are great, but some editing and common sense should have gone into this production.

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