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Updated: Jul 25, 2023

When I heard Christian McBride was releasing a new album, I just had to check it out. I cannot claim to be too familiar with his previous work, but was aware of him by reputation as the Philadelphian bass player and band leader who is also an in-demand session player, having worked with the likes of Sting, McCartney, Metheny and Corea. “Pride” is the second album by New Jawn and, listening to the opener ‘Head Bedlam’ the uninitiated to free jazz might well press the stop button and hear a ‘cacophony’ in the free blowing that bookends the track. But then again, on Bandcamp, McBride’s music is described thus: “A force of nature, fusing the fire and fury of a virtuoso with the depth and grounding of a seasoned journeyman.” And there is melody and rhythmicity in the core of the track, and there are recognisable and more accessible passages of play elsewhere, especially notable on the Sonny Rollins and Larry Young pieces. The lead instruments are trumpet and tenor sax/ bass clarinet and, of course, the musicianship is first class, but I found the drumming over fussy (McBride self-produced) and had a tendency to suffocate some of the melodies that did emerge. Personally, I would have preferred more use of space and less frenzy, but then again I am no free jazz connoisseur, and would naturally gravitate towards other McBride records as a backing musician and his “A Musical Portrait of Four Icons” (Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X). Given all this, I would appreciate recommendations of McBride’s best releases outside the free jazz sphere as exhibited on “Pride”.

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