Christian McBride's Quintet in Its Comfort Zone, With a Little Youth in the Mix

Christian McBride
The deep, dark-maple tone that Christian McBride elicits from an upright bass is one of jazz's forthright pleasures, and so is the pleasure he seems to extract from it himself. On Tuesday night, in the first set of a five-night run at the Village Vanguard, he took the stage exuding luxurious comfort—in a black skullcap with a gold peace-sign medallion draped over black velour—and began filling the room with his sound.

His solo introduction, shapeless but soulful, eventually led to a major blues in sauntering tempo, and the rest of his quintet fell neatly into step.

He calls this band Inside Straight, applying the phrase as a badge of intent and maybe a deflective maneuver: He'll brand this music as conventional before you ever have the chance. What that says about Mr. McBride is that he has his principles but sees the bigger picture, and that he understands how a project like this could be misconstrued. Inside Straight made its debut at the Village Vanguard five years ago under a different name; the group has since appeared there every year and has made a studio album, “Kind of Brown" (Mack Avenue).

In the past few months Mr. McBride, 39, has released two more sure-footed albums on the same label: “The Good Feeling," a big-band showcase, and “Conversations With Christian," a parade of duets. Both come across as the products of an inquisitive mind and some earned good will. By comparison Inside Straight feels truly lived in, probably because its style reflects Mr. McBride's formative interests, those that he once expressed as an onrushing prodigy.

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