Christian McBride - New Jawn

Label: Mack Avenue, 2018

Personnel - Marcus Strickland: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Josh Evans: trumpet; Christian McBride: double bass; Nasheet Waits: drums.

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Philadelphia-born Christian McBride, one of the most fluid and fluent jazz bassists in the world, debuts a new quartet, New Jawn, whose name derives from Philly jargon and can be translated as ‘new joint’. The quartet affiliates - saxophonist Marcus Strickland, trumpeter Josh Evans, and drummer Nasheet Waits - contribute with two compositions each to a colorful song list that also admits Wayne Shorter’s “Sightseeing”.

The group’s eponymous album spreads thrillingly fresh ideas that surge with infectious energy and grandiose conviction. A great example of that is the opening tune, McBride’s “Walkin’ Funny”, which blends the exhilaration of Lee Morgan’s melodies with asymmetric notions of rhythm and collective improvisatory effervescence that refuses any commercial approach in favor of creative freedom. This same posture marks Waits’ “Ke-Kelli Sketch”, where compelling bowed bass is turned into a galloping groove, at the same time that early loose drumming becomes profusely acute, erecting an elastic avant-garde background over which Evans engraves discernible rhythmic figures. The foundation is reconfigured into a soul-imbued template to welcome Strickland’s melody-driven speech.

Evans’ pieces, “The Ballad of Ernie Washington” and “Pier One Import”, bring chunks of tradition in its rollicking lines. The former brims with a melodicism that is worthy of the Great American Songbook, while the latter is a post-bop incursion with lustrous unison phrases and killing solos. In turn, Strickland bestows “The Middle Me”, a swing ride taken at a burning tempo with a Freddie Hubbard-like intensity, and “Seek The Source”, a blues where everyone finds room to stretch out.

Employing brushes for a more meditative circumstance, Waits outlines his “Kush” song with delicacy. McBride doesn’t let this low-key vibe curb his arco extemporization while Strickland upholds the groove on bass clarinet. The bandleader also improvises on the moderate walker “John Day”, a tune he wrote in 3/4 with a gorgeous head riff and a Nardis-like semblance.

Communicating with countless details and peculiarities, these cats prove they dominate the jazz idiom from end to end.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Walkin’ Funny ► 02 - Ke-Kelli Sketch ► 08 - John Day