Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Knows how to throw a party

Regina Carter can certainly play classical violin (the Italians let her have at Paganini's "Cannon" after all). She's got more than a little Stuff Smith in her as well, and she can do Latin jazz as in "Mojito," one of my favorite songs on her CD "Rhythms of the Heart." And I have to think she could get as avant-garde as Jenny Scheinman, need be. But her thing is getting Motown funky. No surprise then that Carter fit right in with Christian McBride and the jazzed funk fest he put on at the concert I attended in Chicago's Orchestra Hall Friday night.

In addition to Carter, McBride's other special guest was Fred Wesley. I had no idea who Fred Wesley was before the concert. After, I found out he was trombonist of choice and musical director for James Brown. So you know he had no problem contributing plenty of funky licks. In fact, Mr. Wesley, older gentleman and the only guy in a suit though he was, kept right up with the youngsters, including DJ Logic. (McBride joked that Logic was probably the first "turntablist" to play Orchestra Hall, and I imagine that's right.)

I'd like to know more about Christian McBride's bass, which had the dings and dents of a bad boxer's face and looked like it had about 50 layers of shellac covering it. Something tells me it's a classic. He made it sound like it anyway. Dude played a mean electric bass guitar in the bargain. Geoffrey Keezer on piano and electronic keyboards and Terreon Gully, who's from East St. Louis, on drums also were great. Gully is just an impressively skilled drummer, powerful but capable of being subtle, too. I was reading a review Sunday that called him one of the most promising drummers to emerge in a decade.

You could see where Christian McBride was headed on his own CD "A Family Affair" and on "The Philadelphia Experiment," Ropeadope Records, which I gave another listen over the weekend and should pull out more often, because frankly everything on it is good. The duet McBride and pianist Uri Caine do of Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" is priceless. McBride's doing his own thing, but some of it also reminds me of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, Weather Report and, of course, Miles Davis' electric music. I liked him before I went to the concert, but I came away a fan. "Live at Tonic," Ropeadope, his most recent CD, captures the kind of stuff that happened at Orchestra Hall pretty well.

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