There’s a joy and verve about bassist Christian McBride’s big band album Bringin’ It. If this doesn’t get a mention in next week’s Grammy nominations list, there’s something amiss. Of course, McBride is no stranger to the Grammy lists, with five wins under his belt so far, and this latest album stands strong and proud alongside his distinguished body of work.
As we head towards the end of 2017 and undoubtedly some mainstream ‘jazz’ albums to add to Christmas lists, Bringin’ It makes it high on my list of favourites for the year. The more I listen, the higher up it moves.
Of the eleven tracks, the majority are composed or arranged by McBride and his passion for large scale ensemble playing and solo breaks is evident. There’s an impressive line-up, including the mellifluous vocals of Melissa Walker on Upside Down and a beautiful version of Mr Bojangles. McBride even commissions the harp of Brandee Younger to add an ethereal quality to the fundamentally bass and woodwind driven In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, which is balanced by a delightful tenor sax solo and final flourish from Dan Pratt.
McBride’s original tracks bring a complex melange of funk, soul and energy and Gettin’ To It opens the album with a definite traditional big band flavour with the ensemble interspersing nicely the solo spots. Two tracks in, following the red-hot Thermo, arranged by McBride to feature Zavier Davis’ piano and Freddie Hendrix’s steaming solo tribute to the track’s composer, Freddie Hubbard, comes McBride’s Youthful Bliss. This brings the temperature down to a complex groove punctuated by Latin and soul breaks and a lovely solo from Steve Wilson’s soprano. The third original – Used ‘Ta Could – comes later in the album with more alto from Wilson above rhythmic handclaps and the sounds of people having way too much fun in a jubilant waltz.
Finishing with Optimism sounds about right for McBride. One of the longest tracks on this stunning album brings that joy which suffuses the whole album. Every track on Bringin’ It has been carefully chosen and arranged, with McBride’s production making this an archetypal big band collection for today. And it’s a firm contender for my favourite album of 2017. However it fares with the Grammy nominations and awards, this is a winner, especially for anyone who thinks big bands are outdated.