Five-time GRAMMY®-winning Jazz bassist CHRISTIAN McBRIDE is a virtuoso with relentless energy. This Philadelphia native has become one of the most requested, recorded and respected figures in the music world today. His father, first-call veteran Philadelphia mainstay Lee Smith, and his great uncle, Howard Cooper, are both well-known Philadelphia bassists who served as McBride’s early mentors. Raised in a city steeped in soul, McBride started on electric bass, switched to upright and moved to New York City in 1989 to study at Juilliard, where he was promptly invited to go “on the road” by saxophonist Bobby Watson.
Anointed a “teen prodigy,” he worked with Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson, Sonny Rollins, J.J. Johnson, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Joe Henderson, John McLaughlin, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Martino, Hank Jones, Joshua Redman, Kenny Garrett, Tim Warfield, Roy Hargrove, Joey Calderazzo, Brad Mehldau, Isaac Hayes, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, James Brown, Sting, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon, The Roots, D’Angelo, Queen Latifah, Kathleen Battle, the Shanghai Quartet and Sonus Quartet. McBride has appeared on over 300 recordings, including the collaborative project The Philadelphia Experiment, with keyboardist Uri Caine and drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson.
All these experiences come together in his longest-running project, the Christian McBride Band, collectively evolving his all-inclusive, forward-thinking outlook on the edge of a musical electro-acoustic fault line. He focuses that same energy through a more traditional lens for his critically-acclaimed Inside Straight quintet, the Christian McBride Big Band’s 2012 release The Good Feeling and the Christian McBride Trio’s album Out Here.
A respected educator and advocate, Christian spoke at President Bill Clinton’s 1997 town hall meeting “Racism in the Performing Arts” and has since been named Artistic Director of the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Sessions, co-director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, Creative Chair for Jazz of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Artistic Advisor for Jazz Programming at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and, most recently, succeeded founder George Wein to become artistic director of the Newport Jazz Festival.
In 1998 McBride composed The Movement, Revisited, a four-section suite dedicated to the major figures of the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commissioned by the Portland (ME) Arts Society and the National Endowment for the Arts, it was subsequently praised by the Los Angeles Times as “a work that was admirable—to paraphrase Dr. King—for both the content of its music and the character of its message.”
Christian hosts and produces NPR’s “Jazz Night in America,” a weekly radio show and multimedia collaboration between WBGO, NPR and Jazz at Lincoln Center, showcasing outstanding live Jazz from across the country. Completing the arc is McBride’s work with Jazz House Kids, a nationally recognized community arts organization founded by his wife, vocalist Melissa Walker. Educating children through Jazz, their concept offers students a program developing musical potential, leadership skills, and academic performance. This shared celebration of America’s original musical art form cultivates tomorrow’s community leaders and global citizens while preserving its rich legacy for future generations.