Christian McBride Quartet, Antone's, October 28

Live Shots

Christian McBride Quartet

Antone's, October 28

Sometimes they only show up for the openers. Often, they only show up for the headliners. Occasionally, the openers are headliners. Such was the case on what started out as a quiet, empty, smoke-free Thursday evening at Antone's. When jazz bassist Christian McBride and his backing trio took the stage just after 10pm, not more than 40-50 patrons were on hand to hear the bandleader saw through some thick chords on his worn stand-up. On cue, the solo bloomed into full stereo as the band kicked in and tenor saxman Ron Blake started blowing a chorus that made his knees shake, rattle, and roll. Stepping back from the microphone and eyeing the small crowd in the cavernous Fifth Street club suspiciously, Blake yielded to electric Rhodes scholar/keyboardist Schedric Mitchell, and finally drummer Rodney Green. Fifteen minutes later, Freddie Hubbard's "Birdlike" was over and so was the warm-up. "It is indeed a pleasure to be back at this club," said the 26-year-old McBride, informing the audience this would not be one of those refined, respectable jazz shows at one of those refined, respectable jazz nightclubs. "We want you to be respectful, but we operate on noise. By the end of the show, we want you to forget it started out as jazz." If the quartet's post-bop riffing made this difficult, Herbie Hancock's "Astinado," played third, made it more so, McBride strapping on an electric bass for some boogaloo boppin' and poppin' -- Blake wailing alongside on soprano sax. The band was cookin', bass, drums, and keys rising in unison, then falling back for McBride. The Spinners' "I'm Coming Home," from the bassist's most recent release on Verve, Family Affair, almost succeeded in making you forget the j-word. Certainly the crowd that was slowly filling the club with smoke, clinking bottles, and a rising din in anticipation of headliner Karl Denson's Tiny Universe ("A Greyboy Allstars Sidecar Project!") was helping. By the set's close, "Alone Together," the growing rabble had forgotten they were supposed to be lending an ear to the band. But McBride was no one's patsy. "I see Maceo Parker is coming," he said before counting off James Brown's "Pass the Peas." That got their attention, as did his "name-that-bassline" mid-section featuring snippets of Parliament, Sugarhill Gang, the Commodores, and Chic. Jazz band? What jazz band?

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