Christian McBride Trio Review, Melbourne Recital Centre Sat 1st June

Posted on 03 June 2013

Christian McBride Trio on Friday showed us all how it can, should, and ought to be done. Sure, they all had the chops. But their performance wasn't only just a display of technical virtuosity. McBride engendered a positivity in the ensemble, and his young charges Christian Sands on piano and Ulysses Owens Jr on drums obliged accordingly, each giving their all. Their clear enjoyment of being in Melbourne was apparent, the love on the bandstand was tangible, respect was given where it was due, and they had fun doing it.

Not since Charlie Haden have Melbourne audiences heard bass playing that is “so wide, so deep and so knowing it seems to encompass all of humanity” Jessica Nicholas said of Charlie Haden’s performance in 2009. Whilst Haden has a generation’s more experience than McBride, McBride played with a surety and confidence that belies his relatively young 41 years. What is impressive also is that it appears McBride was playing an instrument he was presumably not familiar with, a locally made Benedict Puglisi Bass. This was an instrument worthy of the greatest jazz double bass player alive, it sounded sublime.

It is a rare occasion at a jazz festival gig that the combination of acoustics (in the Melbourne Recital Centre), instrument, amplification, and miking and mixing all come together and work in harmony. This was the best piano/double bass/drums trio I have heard live.

Whilst comparisons to the Oscar Peterson Trio are apparent, McBride’s trio are in the form of their lives; still keeping one foot in the past and acknowledging where they and the art form came from, but also pushing the music forward bravely with new arrangements and interpretations. Their collaboration was interactive, each propelling eachother forwards and urging oneanother on. Smiles, laughing and shouted encouragement were delivered with playing that challenged and extended each member. McBride also had a swagger about him as well, acknowledging the funk in his playing towards the end, and wordlessly echoing James Brown’s “I am somebody” speech.

It is clear that jazz is being well looked after in the hands of people like the Christian McBride trio.

Tim Nikolsky is a Melbourne based musician, recent PhD graduate, keen cyclist and enthusiastic homebrewer. He digitally curates the Australian Jazz Real Book and it can be found at This concert was attended courtesy of ABC Jazz. Check it out at