Exclusive Interview with Christian McBride on Ray Brown Tribute

We are very excited to present renowned jazz bassist Christian McBride live in concert at The Mission Theater on Wednesday, October 18 in a debut program in tribute to jazz bass icon Ray Brown that also features pianist Benny Green and Lewis Nash (Tickets are available here). PDX Jazz Executive Artistic Director Don Lucoff caught up with McBride while he was finishing up a Quincy Jones Tribute show at the Hollywood Bowl on what Ray Brown and his music have meant to McBride and his own career, and here’s what he had to say…

Ray Brown

PDX: The word mentor comes up frequently when Ray’s name is mentioned, can you connect the dots on that as it relates to your experiences with him on and off the bandstand?

McB: Not sure something that involved could be explained in one answer. Ray mentored and inspired each and every person who was in his presence. Not necessarily by telling them these cosmic, proverbial secrets of life – it’s rarely like that – but by often just being himself. I was honored to make music with him on stage many, many times and hung with him off the stage almost as many ties. He had such a huge spirit. 

PDX: What record by Ray, sideman or leader, was “the one” for you that made more than a difference?

McB: Oh man, there are so many that I would pick as “the one”. Quincy Jones – “Walking In Space”, Sonny Rollins – “Way Out West”, a Verve record entitled “Ray Brown & Milt Jackson: Much In Common”, and pretty much any Oscar Peterson Trio album.

PDX: Benny certainly had a well-established role in Ray’s group, can you comment on you and Lewis in terms of performing with him? Any “Two Bass Hit” shows that are fondly remembered?

McB: Lewis and I are super excited about this project. In 2014, the three of us were the rhythm section for the Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour. Each night, we would spell the front line and play a trio tune. Often times, that trio song would be something that Benny played with Ray Brown, so this upcoming tour is an organic unfolding. 😄

The “Superbass” group with Ray, John Clayton and myself was so beyond wonderful. How often do you get to play in the same band as your bass hero? Every Superbass gig and recording was memorable! Too many stories to share here.

PDX:  You worked in Benny’s breakthrough trio with Carl Allen, was Lewis ever a part of that experience or later on? 

McB: Lewis sat in for Carl in Benny’s trio maybe once or twice, but the three of us played together with other people often.

PDX: Was your early connection to Benny through working in Freddie Hubbard’s band? And with Lewis was it through a series of studio dates?

McB: I met Benny through Bobby Watson. We played a gig with Bobby somewhere in Brooklyn in December of 1989. We became brothers instantly. As for Lewis, he was playing with Branford Marsalis when I first met him. I was still in High School. We reconnected in 1991 on a gig with Roy Hargrove at the Village Vanguard. We also became brothers instantly!