Christian McBride ‘Live at the Village Vanguard’ (Mack Avenue) 4/5

christian-mcbride-trioBassist extraordinaire Christian McBride toured Europe during this summer and this fine in concert recording from the unofficial historical home of live jazz in New York’s Greenwich Village gives us a real flavour of where his trio is currently at. The emphasis is on relentlessly soulful grooves that swing and an unlikely, yet stunning reworking of the disco classic ‘Car Wash’ from Rose Royce, is inventively resituated in a jazz idiom with repeated bass line and piano vamp serving as a departure point from improvisation, plus audience handclapping, all of which helps create a vibrant atmosphere in which to re-create the famous Norman Whitfield production. With a line-up comprising pianist Christian Sands, who combines elements of the blues approach of Gene Harris, the modern impressionistic hues of Herbie Hancock and the soulfulness of Ramsey Lewis, and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., this a trio out to impress. The jazz tradition is never too far away from the surface as exemplified on a stretched out piano melody to ‘Good morning heartache’ that Billie Holiday made her own and McBride takes a fine solo here. Opening up the evening’s entertainment is a Wes Montgomery number in the soul-jazz tradition, ‘Fried Pies’, and one barely notices the absence of guitar as on the original. Only the slightly odd mid-tempo waltz take on ‘Cherokee’ does not really work for this writer in comparison to the blistering be-bop original. Contemporary soul music is something this trio feels comfortable with and a lovely, gentle and altogether introspective reading of Rod Temperton’s ‘Lady in my life’ that Michael Jackson sang on ‘Thriller’ here receives a relaxed blues-inflected work over. One original composition, co-written by McBride and Sands, rounds matters off nicely.

Tim Stenhouse