Christian McBride: Getting the Inside Straight
CMB: Yeah...wow. I was like, "Really?" [Laughs]. "But, you know, Mr. Silver, it's just one day!" "Oh, I'm sorry, man, I know it's a little severe, but I'm old school, I got to get used to my guys. I'm just going to get really nervous if someone misses one rehearsal. I know you're going to play great, whether you make the rehearsal or not, that's not the issue, I got to feel comfortable with my guys before we record, and I feel I really, really need you for all four days." And I thought "Oh, man. Wow..."
So, I called Dave Brubeck back and I told him what happened. And he said, "Any way you can talk to Horace and get him to change his mind? I really would love to have you with me. We're going to have Roy Hargrove and Joshua Redman play with us as well. Christian, I've always loved you, I really want you to play with me, this is a special honor. See if you can talk to Horace." So, I'm really stuck, because it's obvious that Horace is not going to change his mind. I called him again and he is like, "I'm sorry, Christian, still stands. You have to make all four rehearsals or you can't do the record." Oh, man! What am I going do? So I'm sitting up all night long, scratching my head almost until it bleeds, trying to figure out what to do. What am I going to do? I don't want to disappoint Dave Brubeck, and I really want to play on this record with Horace Silver...I just don't know what to do.
Maybe if I can take a flight that can take me to Los Angeles and back to New York in time for the rehearsal. I'm thinking, "Okay, I know the Grammys come on at eight o'clock on the East Coast, which means it's going to be five o'clock on the West Coast..."so I'm doing numbers. Maybe I can find like a 10 o'clock flight for LA, and I'll get back to New York at six in the morning. Yeah, that's what I'll do.
So I called my manager and asked him if he could find me that kind of flight that could get me back to New York in time. Unfortunately, everything was booked so I couldn't find one that would get me back to New York in time. So the decision that was made, that I frankly regret, is that I did the Grammy Awards with Dave Brubeck. Horace Silver got another bassist to play in his recording.
Now, why do I regret it? Because my manager at the time, and this is why I always preach to students, when I am in Jazz Aspen or with some young musicians who could use a little guidance, I always tell them the story, because my manager at the time, and well, you know how managers are, they never really think in terms of art, they think in terms of commerce, and money and the bright lights and the stardom. My manager was like, "Oh Christian, you should do the Grammys, there're going to be millions of people who are going to watch you on television, this is going to make you a star, you have to do this, you might be able to make some contacts there...."
Of course, logic should have told me, "Well, people are not watching the Grammys to watch me, they're going to see Dave Brubeck." We're only going to get two minutes, I don't think I'm going to make that significant of an impact on the Grammy telecast in two minutes. I'm not even going to get a solo. So, when the Grammy Award telecast aired that night, there was some kind of miscommunication with the producer, so on the television it read "Special Tribute to Dave Brubeck, featuring Roy Hargrove and Joshua Redman." So they didn't even mention my name. [Laughs] Nobody knew who this anonymous bassist was, playing with Dave Brubeck. So not only did I not get my name mentioned on this so-called "millions of people are going to see me, and this is an offer I can't refuse," but I ended up not being able to record with Horace Silver, and I never played with him.
I spoke to him, I hung out with him a number of times after that, but I never got to play with Horace Silver. I played with Dave Brubeck a million times after that Grammy telecast, and I am very thankful that I had a great relationship with him all these years; he made me the first artistic director of his school. But I never got to play with Horace Silver, and I really, really, really regret that. And well...(laughs), when I told Dave Brubeck manager this, to put a perfect ending to this story, he said "you should have played with Horace!" [Laughs]. Oh, man...
So yeah, that was a very long answer to your question, is there any recordings that I never played on, that I look at and I say..."damn!..." Yeah, the Horace Silver record. [Laughs]. It was called The Hard bop Grandpop (Impulse!, 1996).
AAJ: Wow...that's terrible. So, who are you today?
CMB: Who am I today... [Silence] I am someone who hopefully is better than he was yesterday, but not as good as he'll be tomorrow.
AAJ: Good...and what affects Christian McBride the most when it comes to music?
CMB: I don't know...the feeling..I got to get some feeling from this. You know, people who are not musicians, they can feel when you're honest. They can feel when you're really true about your art. They may not able to tell you in musical terms what you are doing, but they can feel it. Like I said earlier when I was talking about all the television shows, about how American culture is, and people who are infatuated with pop culture, they know is BS. They like it, they watch it, but they know it is BS. So, I think that for me, what affects me with music is just feeling the true honesty and artistry in the music, you know? That's what affects me the most. I listen to a pop record, and I can tell if somebody is really trying to make music or make money. I think the difference is clear. You can tell when people are really trying to make music, or in it to be famous. I like people who are in it to make music.
Shop for jazz:
So, I think that for me, what affects me with music is just feeling the true honesty and artistry in the music, you know? That's what affects me the most. I listen to a pop record, and I can tell if somebody is really trying to make music or make money. I think the difference is clear. You can tell when people are really trying to make music, or in it to be famous. I like people who are in it to make music.