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Listen to all of our great Arts Desk features on jazz artists making music in the present and the past. Enjoy!

Jazz Superstar Christian McBride Still Has That Philly Pride

When the Newport Jazz Festival announced that Philadelphia-born musician Christian McBride would assume the role of its artistic director in 2017, festival founder and current producer George Wein said, "When I first met Christian McBride in 1989, I knew he was someone special.

The bass player, composer, band leader, arts and education advocate strikes people that way.  Along with his stand-out talent and engaging personality, McBride pays attention and seems to live in the moment.  That focus reaps rewards for McBride and for the rest of us.   

In 2016 Christian McBride was in town with his wife Melissa Walker for the kickoff of Philly Celebrates Jazz - the city-wide celebration of jazz appreciation month. At that time, Mayor Jim Kenney honored the multi-talented bass player from West Philadelphia in a packed Mayor’s Reception Room saying, "This room is the coolest it will ever be."

In March 2016, Christian McBride spoke with WRTI's Meridee Duddleston about his Philadelphia pride, a composition project, and learning by example.

Philadelphia favorite son Christian McBride imparts some wisdom to WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston on “seizing the day.”

Credit Tony Webb / City of Philadelphia, 2016
City of Philadelphia, 2016
Lovin' Philly Jazz!

Radio script:

Music: Christian McBride Trio:  Cherokee, Live at the Village Vanguard. In February, 2016 McBride won a GRAMMY Award for “Best Improvised Jazz Solo” for this performance. It was his fifth GRAMMY.

Meridee Duddleston: It’s nearly impossible to capture all that celebrated bassist, composer, arranger, band leader, artistic director and radio host Christian McBride does. The heavyweight who grew up in a musical family in Philadelphia and attended the High School for the Creative Arts now lives in Montclair, NJ. Now in his forties, Christian McBride doesn’t hold back depending on who’s watching or listening.

Christian McBride: And that’s a lesson in of itself. You might not think they are, but somebody out here is paying attention… A lot of people tend to put a little extra into it when they know the returns are going to be a little greater. But you gotta give your all when you’re not expecting anything in return.

MD: Back home in Philadelphia, McBride was reflecting on why he may have been tapped as the only the second artistic director of the country’s oldest and most prestigious Newport Jazz Festival. He’s says it will be hard to build upon perfection.

CM: You know because there’s so much history with the Newport Jazz Festival. I realize now that I have something very historic in my lap. You know, so uh, I will plan it boldly, but carefully.

MD: And what about his links to his hometown?

CM: When I come back to Philadelphia, I think that the musicians and the music fans here in the city can look at someone from Philadelphia who’s coming home and look right through them and say, ‘Yup, he’s still got the Philly pride.’

MD: Christian McBride has a golden touch on and off the stage that shows no signs of letting up.