REVIEW: Christian McBride Big Band at the 2018 Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Christian McBride at Cheltenham
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk

Christian McBride Big Band
(Town Hall, 6 May 2018, Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Review by Jon Turney)

Seventeen players on the stand. Catchy hooks, grooves, and funk. An effortlessly charming master of ceremonies who also arranges, and leads from the bass.

A well-drilled band, visibly enjoying their power to conjure that old-school sound, from ear-splitting riffs to velvet-cushioned swing. A clutch of stellar soloists: Marcus Strickland properly raucous on tenor sax; Brandon Lee on trumpet, bluesy on I Thought About You, fervently upbeat on an old Jazz Messengers theme; Xavier Davis on piano sparkling against the band backdrop almost everywhere.

Three powerhouse vocals from Melissa Walker (Mrs McBride). With help from a tasty alto sax obligato from Gabrielle Garo she almost manages to redeem A Taste of Honey as a jazz vehicle. Almost.

The encore, as several previous numbers, features an absolutely jaw-dropping bass solo that has zero effect on the leader’s impregnable composure.

After 90 minutes, absolutely nothing unexpected has happened. But it’s been a supremely-professional, and enjoyable show. The audience, packing every corner of Cheltenham’s Town Hall, delivers a standing ovation. Somewhere else, the shade of Jimmy Blanton smiles approvingly.
The Christian McBride Big Band
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk

2 comments:

  1. I was there and agree it was a great gig, unfortunately I missed the encore as like many others I was going to the Kamasi Washington gig that started 15 minutes later and 500/600yards away. It is something that Cheltenham needs to address in future years. The audience 'walking out' is embarrassing to both the performers and those doing the 'walking'. The band performing their only gig in the UK might not have been aware of who they were preceding and were perhaps thinking the leavers were showing disapproval of their (the bands) efforts.

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  2. I totally agree. I stayed to the end so missed the first 7 or 8 minutes of Kamasi Washington. Cheltenham, get your act together!

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