Friday, January 27, 2012

Great Night! Christian McBride at Ivories Jazz Lounge

Christian McBride
Wow! What a night I had last night! As I had mentioned in my previous blog entry, Ivories Jazz Lounge and Restaurant (1435 NW Flanders St Portland Oregon 503 241 6514) is a new spot in Portland that is going to be a great addition to the jazz scene. Not only is the booking open, which means that many musicians in Portland will get a chance to perform there, but it looks as though there are planning to bring in name players, which should delight the jazz fans of Portland. Last night's featured guest was the great bassist Christian McBride. The former young lion and now well established jazz master has been on the scene since the early 90's. Originally from Philadelphia, McBride has been all over the world with most of the jazz greats who are or were alive in his lifetime. I've known McBride personally for about 10 years; I subbed in his quartet every once in a while throughout the last decade, and we even did some trio stuff with drummer Billy Hart at the Blue Note and the Newport Jazz Festival. I was as surprised as everyone else that McBride was going to come through Portland for a one nighter, so I figured I should go down to Ivories and check out the gig.

Kelly Shannon
McBride was performing with some outstanding local talent. Dan Gaynor, a Portland native, is a wonderful pianist, with a strong touch and driving rhythm. Drummer Todd Strait, whom I've worked with many times, is extremely easy to play with;an intense player who is also focused and musical. Kelly Shannon, who organized the entire event, is a jazz vocalist in the classic sense, although she can improvise and create with subtle sophistication. Sitting in on the guitar was John Stowell, who has such an original melodic style that I'm shaking my head as to why he isn't more well known.

McBride has a touring band, but this gig was, as he described it, "an old fashioned jazz party." McBride's arrival in Portland had been delayed severely due to a screw up with the flight from Los Angeles, so there was no time for any rehearsal. So they found tunes that everyone knew. "That's the great thing about jazz", McBride observed on the bandstand,"you don't even have to know the cats. We just met a few minutes ago, but we can still play together." And so they did.

The great Dick Berk
And then it opened up into a pretty long jam session. I got to play trio with McBride and Portland's own Dick Berk, who is a true master of the jazz drumming language. While I enjoyed getting an opportunity to play piano( I even got to play trumpet later in the evening), I enjoyed watching McBride play; his technique on the bass is simply breathtaking. He has perfect intonation in all registers, and seemingly limitless speed and ideas. And he makes it look easy.

Lots of others got up and played, including drummer Alan Jones and bassist/vocalist Belinda Underwood. The gig went pretty late. McBride understandably had had a long day, but, like many musicians I know, loves to play regardless of physical or mental fatigue. It was mentioned that he'll return in April. I hope to be around if it happens. The turnout was great in that it was completely sold out!

And if you want to see me at Ivories, come down tomorrow, Saturday, January 28th, starting at 8:30. David Valdez in on saxophone, Eric Gruber is on bass, and Todd Strait is again on drums. It's going to be a lot of original music, but we will throw in some standards as well. Come out and support live jazz in Portland!


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