Bassist and leader Christian McBride returns with a slight variation on his ongoing big band, but one nonetheless steeped in the jazz tradition. On this occasion, the piano less quintet has a good deal more freedom to express themselves and the live recording takes place at a regular jazz night bistro in St. Louis. That said, McBride has always pursued a melodic beat wherever possible. All but one of the pieces are originals, with the one exception being, ‘Sightseeing’. This is a lesser known number composed by Wayne Shorter, which comes across as inspired by the tenorist’s sojourn with the Jazz Messengers, with McBride leading from the front with a driving bass line. A blues-inflected bass groove permeates the opener, ‘Walkin’ Funny’, which has a late 1950s Mingus feel, while the, ‘Ballad of Ernie Washington’ sounds not dissimilar to Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’. The band come into their own on the impressionistic fresco, ‘John Day’, with trumpet and bass clarinet operating effectively together. Post-bop might be one way to explain the overriding ambiance of the album with ‘Seek the source’ having a memorable lyricism that makes this writer think of mid-1960s Miles Davis and ‘Gingerbread Man’.
Aiding and abetting the leader are Marcus Strickland on reeds, including both tenor and bass clarinet, Josh Evans on trumpet and Rasheet Waits on the drums. If the modal feel to, ‘Ke-Kelli Sketch’, has the feet tapping, then the fine ballad that is, ‘Kush’, demonstrates what a fine ensemble this band has become with deft brush work, trumpet centre stage followed in turn by a burning tenor solo, and underpinning it all the assured bass lines of Christian McBride. With a talented band of this calibre, we can but await the next album with eager anticipation.