Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Having two working bassists in the family proved to be a major influence on him. There was his father, Lee Smith, who played bass for everyone from local Philly Soul superstars like the Delfonics and Billy Paul, to Cuban conguero, Mongo Santamaria. Then there was his great uncle, Howard Cooper, who played bass with members of the jazz avant-garde, including Sun Ra and Khan Jamal. Electric bass was Christian's first instrument, which he began playing at age 9. Two years later, he took on the acoustic bass. While intensely studying classical music, Christian's interest and love for jazz also took flight, and James Brown has always been a hero as well. At the age of 13, he began causing a buzz around the local Philly jazz scene, sitting in with as many local musicians as possible. The following year, at age 14, Christian would meet Wynton Marsalis who would become a big brother figure and mentor for McBride, outlining a variety of milestones he should strive to a chieve in order to enhance his clearly promising career. Marsalis would put the word out on McBride to his fellow colleagues. While attending Philadelphia's fertile High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (C.A.P.A.), McBride found himself in the company of other young talents such as members of what would become the first recognized Hip-Hop Band, The Roots, vocalists Boyz II Men, organist Joey DeFrancesco, vocalist/songwriter Amel Larrieux, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and singer/songwriter Marc Nelson (now a member of Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds' camp). Upon graduating in 1989, McBride was awarded a partial scholarship to attend the Juilliard School in New York City to study with the legendary bassist, Homer Mensch. That summer, before making the move to the Big Apple, McBride got his first taste of the touring life going to Europe with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, and also touring the U.S. with the 80's fusion group, Free Flight. He was now ready to tackle Juilliard and New York City. He never had a chance to settle into his Juilliard studies. Within the first two weeks of the semester, he joined Bobby Watson's band, Horizon. He also started working around New York at clubs such as Bradley's and the Village Gate with real hard-core New York stalwarts as John Hicks, Kenny Barron, Larry Willis, and Gary Bartz. After one year at Juilliard, McBride made a decision to leave school and tour with trumpeter Roy Hargrove's first band, electing "experience with as many musicians as possible" as the best teacher. In August of 1990, he landed a coveted position in legendary trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's band until January of 1993. When Hubbard's band was on hiatus, McBride also worked in one of the hottest bands of the early 90's, The Benny Green Trio. In 1991, the legendary bassist Ray Brown heard McBride, and asked young Christian to join "SuperBass," a group Brown tailor made for Christian and John Clayton. McBride would take full advantage of having Ray Brown as a mentor/father-figure. McBride was also named Rolling Stone magazine's "Hot Jazz Artist" of 1992. McBride was signed to Verve Records in the summer of 1994. Philadelphia's Mellon Jazz Festival of 1994 was dedicated to McBride (along with Lee Morgan, posthumously). He also received a commission from Jazz at Lincoln Center to compose "Bluesin' In Alphabet City," performed by Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra featuring McBride as special guest. He then toured and recorded in an all-star band with another legend, pianist Chick Corea. During this time, McBride achieved something that meant more to him personally than any gig or recording session: he finally befriended his boyhood idol, James Brown. For over a year, Brown and McBride talked about collaborating. Disappointingly, the collaboration never happened due to contractual and legal issues. In 1998, the Portland (ME) Arts Society, and the National Endowment for the Arts awarded McBride with a commission to write "The Movement, Revisited," Christian's dramatic musical portrait of the civil rights struggle of the 1960's. Written for quartet and a 30-piece gospel choir, the project challenged Christian more than any other up to that point. Collaborating with J.D.Steele (of the renowned gospel family, The Steeles), four concerts were presented late that year. Later in 2001, pop star Sting would invite Christian to join his new band. McBride would now become one of those rare artists from the jazz world to be a part of the pop scene. In addition to all of his solo recordings, throughout the last decade McBride has been featured on over 200 recordings and has toured and/or recorded with artists such as David Sanborn, George Duke, McCoy Tyner, Bobby Hutcherson, Chaka Khan, Joe Henderson, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Milt Jackson, Peabo Bryson, Ray Brown, Natalie Cole, George Benson, Benny Golson, Johnny Griffin, and Issac Hayes. McBride has graced the big screen playing his bass in director Robert Altman's 1940's period piece, "Kansas City" (1996), as well as its two soundtracks.
Not content to only play music, McBride continues to challenge himself in other arenas. As a speaker, he participated on a panel for former President Clinton's town hall meeting on "Racism in the Performing Arts." Other speakers included such personalities as choreographer Garth Fagan, and Star Trek's "Mr. Sulu," George Takei. McBride was also a part of Stanford University's panel on "Black Performing Arts in Mainstream America." He also took the plunge into cyberspace by hosting a weekly "jazz chat" series of one-on-one interviews for Sonicnet.com. He has written the foreword for a book by pianist Jonny King called, "What Jazz Is" (Walker & Co., New York). For McBride, jazz education has always been a prime concern. He does numerous workshops and clinics at universities all over the country, and in 2000, McBride was named artistic director of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Program, and in 2001, was named artistic director of the University of Richmond's summer jazz program, as well as the Dave Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.
McBride taught himself to play electric bass when he was 8 years old, with some help from his father, Lee Smith, who performed with the Philadelphia soul group the Delfonics. McBride learned acoustic bass in junior high, then attended Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, where his classmates included organist Joey DeFrancesco, guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and the singers who would later form Boys II Men. When McBride was in 11th grade, Wynton Marsalis invited him to sit in at a concert at Philadelphia's Academy of Music. In 1989, McBride went to Manhattan to study at Juilliard, but was soon recruited by alto saxophonist Bobby Watson. Tours with Roy Hargrove and a two-year stint with Freddie Hubbard followed, succeeded by work with Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Chick Corea (in his Bud Powell tribute band), Benny Green, Benny Golson, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (for which he composed original music) and Joshua Redman, with whom he f ormed a trio. Now he divides his time between working and recording with a vast array of musicians, and leading his own band -- featuring Tim Warfield, Anthony Wonsey, and Carl Allen. He appeared 1995 with McCoy Tyner, Kathleen Battle, and David Sanborn, recorded with Dave Brubeck, and appeared on the live Grammy telecast with Brubeck February 28th 1996.
Gettin' To It (1995); Number Two Express (1996); A Family Affair (1998); Sci-Fi (2000); The Philadelphia Experiment (2001); Vertical Vision (2003)
Wallace Roney: Obsession (1990); Kenny Kirkland: Kenny Kirkland (1990); Roy Hargrove: Public Eye (1990); Joey DeFrancesco: Part III (1990); Don Braden: The Time Is Now (1991); Benny Green: Greens (1991); Donald Harrison: For Art's Sake (1991); Stephen Scott: Something To Consider (1991); James Clay: Cookin' at the Continental (1991); Kenny Drew, Jr.: Kenny Drew, Jr. (1991); Gary Bartz: Shadows (1991); Antonio Hart: For The First Time (1991); The Jazz Futures: In Concert (1991); Joe Henderson: Lush Life (1991); Javon Jackson: Me & Mr. Jones (1991); Benny Green: Testifyin': Live at the Village Vanguard (1991); James Williams: Attitudes Of An Everyday Man (1991); Houston Person: The Lion & His Pride (1991); Freddie Hubbard: Live at Fat Tuesday's (1991); Don Braden: Wish List (1991); Benny Carter: Legends (1991); Ricky Ford: Hot Brass (1992); Bill Pierce/Javon Jackson: Burnin'(1992); Betty Carter: It's Not About The Melody (1992); Willie Williams: The Spiri t Willie (1992); Rickey Woodard: The Tokyo Express (1992); Victor Lewis: Know It Today, Know It Tomorrow (1992); Joshua Redman: Joshua Redman (1992); Mulgrew Miller: Hand In Hand (1992); Cyrus Chestnut: The Nutman Speaks, vol.1 (1992); Cyrus Chestnut: The Nutman Speaks, vol.2 (1992); Etta Jones: Reverse The Charges (1992); Benny Green: That's Right (1992); Ryan Kisor: On The One (1992); Bill Pierce: Epistrophy (1992); Don Braden: After Dark (1993); Chris Potter: Introducing Chris Potter (1993); Nnenna Freelon: Heritage (1993);
Cecil Brooks III: Neck Peckin' (1993); Harold Mabern: Lookin' On The Bright Side (1993); James Williams: Talkin' Trash (1993); Steve Marcus: Smile (1993); John Swana: (withheld; 1993); Cyrus Chestnut: Another Direction (1993); Carolyn Leonhart: (1993); Benny Green: Blue Notes (Japan Only, 1993); Joe Lovano: Tenor Legacy (1993); Wallace Roney: Munchin' (1993); Billy Taylor: It's A Matter Of Pride (1993); Andy Snitzer: Ties That Bind (1993); Bill Mobley: Triple Bill (1993); Contemporary Piano Ensemble: The Key Players (1993); Darryl Grant: Black Art (1993); Toots Thielemans: East Coast, West Coast (1993); Jeanie Bryson: Tonight, I Need You So (1994); Joshua Redman: Moodswing (1994); Roy Haynes: Te Vou (1994); Jazz At Lincoln Center (Various Artists): The Fire Of The Fundamentals (1994); Benny Green: The Place to Be (1994); John Pizzarelli: Dear Mr. Cole (1994); David Sanborn: Pearls (1994); Gabrielle Goodman: Until We Love (1994); Michael Wolff: Jumpstart (1994); Various Artists: Carnegie Hall Salutes The Jazz Masters: Verve at 50 (1994); Diana Krall: Only Trust Your Heart (1994); Abbey Lincoln: A Turtle's Dream (1994); Various Artists: From Dark To Light: The Music of Stephen Sondheim (1994); Joe Henderson: Double Rainbow (1994); Teddy Edwards: Tango In Harlem (1994); Carl Allen: Testimonial (1994); Kathleen Battle: So Many Stars (1994); McCoy Tyner: Prelude and Sonata (1994); Jimmy Smith: Damn! (1995), Angel Eyes (1995); Milt Jackson: Burnin' In The Woodhouse (1995); E.J.Allen: R&B (1995); Peter Bernstein: Signs Of Life (1995); Johnny Griffin: Chicago, New York, Paris (1995); Roy Hargrove: Family (1995); James Williams & ICU: Truth, Justice, and the Blues (1995); Joe Lovano: Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard (1995); Brad Mehldau: Introducing Brad Mehldau (1995); Michael Wolff: 2AM (1995); Dave Brubeck: Young Lions, Old Tigers (1995); Michael Franks: Abandoned Garden (1995); Anthony Wonsey: Anthology (1995 ); Mark Whitfield: 7);th Ave. Stroll (1995); Hargrove, McBride, Scott: Parker's Mood (1995); Randy Weston: Earth Birth (1995); Pete Yellin: Colors Of Brooklyn (1995);Sadao Watanabe: (Japan Only, 1995); Various Artists: Soundtrack to the Motion Picture: Kansas City (1995); Marian McPartland: Piano Jazz (featuring Jack DeJohnette) (1995); Fleurine: Meant To Be (1995); Roseanna Vitro: Freedom Jazz Dance (1995); Pete Belasco: Get It Together (1995); McCoy Tyner: Plays The Music Of Burt Bachrach (1995); Cedar Walton: Composer (1996); Bob James: Straight Up (1996); Various Artists: I Get No Kick....(From Modern Jazz) (1996); Various Artists: Offbeat: A Red Hot Sound Trip (1996); Ann Hampton Callaway: To Ella With Love (1996); Anthony Wonsey: Another Perspective (1996); Chick Corea: Remembering Bud Powell (1996); Various Artists: Jazz For Joy: A Christmas (1996); Joe Henderson: Joe Henderson Big Band (1992/1996); Various Artists: A Twist Of Jobim (1996); Donald Harrison: Noveau Swing (1996); Harold Mabern: Mabern's Grooveyard (1996); Frank Foster: Virgo Rising (1996); Ray Brown: Superbass: Live at Sculler's (1996); Geoff Keezer: Turn Up The Quiet (1996); Various Artists: Eastwood After Hours: Carnegie Hall Salutes Clint Eastwood (1997) ; Diana Krall: Love Scenes (1997); T.S.Monk: Monk On Monk (1997); Renee Rosnes: As We Are Now (1997); Ed Thigpen (1997); Bob Dorough: Right On My Way Home (1997); New York Voices: Sing The Songs of Paul Simon (1997); McBride, Payton, Whitfield: Fingerpainting: The Music Of Herbie Hancock (1997); Various Artists: Soundtrack To The Motion Picture: Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil (1997); Alan and Marilyn Bergman (1998); George Duke: After Hours (1998); Tom Browne: R & Browne (1998); Masahiko Osaka: Walkin' Down Lexington (1998); Yutaka Shiina: United (1998); Tony Reedus: People Get Ready (1998); Various Artists: More Music From 'Kansas City' (1998); Ed Thigpen: (1998); Bobby Hutcherson: Skyline (1998); Sadao Watanabe: Remembrance (1998); Don Braden: The Fire Within (1998); Donald Harrison: Free To Be (1998); Benny Green: These Are Soulful Days (1999); Various Artists: Going Home: A Tribute To Duke Ellington (1999); George Benson: Absolute Benson (1999): Eliane Elias: Everything I Love (1999): Harold Mabern: To Maya With Love (1999); David Benoit: Happy 50th Anniversary, Charlie Brown! (1999): Various Artists: A Different Prelude: A Contemporary Collection (with Chris Botti, 1999); Flip Phillips: Swing Is The Thing (1999); Gary Smulyan: Blues Suite (1999); John Scofield: Works For Me (2000); Benny Green: Naturally (2000); Jeanie Bryson: Deja Blue (2000); Cyrus Chestnut: A Charlie Brown Christmas (2000): Gary Burton: For Hamp, Red, Bags, and Cal (2000 ); Dean Brown: Here (2000); Lalo Schifrin: Intersections: Jazz Meets The Symphony #5 (2000); Ray Brown: Superbass: Live at the Blue Note (2000); James Williams: Jazz Dialogues: Volume 1 (2000); Jim Hall: Jim & Basses (2001); Jane Monheit: Come Dream With Me (2001); Diana Krall: The Look Of Love (2001); Russell Malone: Heartstrings (2001); Ron Blake: Lest We Forget (2001); Chris Botti: Night Sessions (2001); Renee Rosnes: Life On Earth (2001); Alphonse Mouzon (2001); Morten Lund: Back And Forth (2001); Gabriela Anders (2001); Cyrus Chestnut: Soul Food (2001); Sting: All This Time (2001); Dave Ellis: State Of Mind (2001); George Duke: Face The Music (2001); Kenny Rankin: A Song ForYou (2001); Natalie Cole: Ask A Woman Who Knows (2001); Vanessa Carlton: Be Not Nobody (2001); BWB (Brown, Whalum, Braun): Groovin' (2002); Victor Wooten: (2002); Roy Haynes: Love Letters (2002); King Britt: The Philadelphia Experiment Remixes (2002); Diana Krall: Live in Paris (one song, 2002); Paul Simon: Soundtrack to The Wild Thornberrys (2002); David Sanborn: Time Again (2002); Lea Delaria (2002); Marian McPartland: An NPR Jazz Christmas (2002); Pat Martino: Think Tank (2003); Sting: Sacred Love ( 2003); Jaco Pastorius Big Band: Word of Mouth Revisited (2003); Chick Corea: Rendezvous In New York (2003); Linda Ronstadt (2003); Diana Krall: The Girl In The Other Room (2003); Karen Francis: Better Days (2003); McCoy Tyner: Illuminations (2003); John Stoddart: Wings To Walk This Road (2003); Al Jarreau: Accentuate the Positive (2004); Hugh Jackman (2004); Regina Belle: Lazy Afternoon (2004); Benito Gonzales (2004); Jane Monheit (2004); David Sanborn (2004); David Gilmore (2004); Hiroko Kokubu (2004); Ron Blake (2004); George Duke (2004)
Video for "Little Sunflower", from CD "Number Two Express"
McBride writes a regular newsletter for his website.
He was voted top bassist by Rolling Stone in 1992 and 1993. He was voted the "acoustic bass player most deserving of wider recognition," in both Down Beat's Critic's Poll, and in Jazz Times' 1996 Readers' Poll. Swing Journal (Japan) named him 1996 New Artist of the Year. Christian was also named Gavin's Jazz Artist of the Year in February of 1996.