Arts concert review

Christian McBride sets the baseline for bass

Christian McBride’s trio return to Harvard to jazz up Sanders Theater

Christian McBride Trio
Presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston
Oct. 29, 2017
Sanders Theater

In the jazz world, Christian McBride has set a standard for jazz bass; his rhythmic, soulful plucking of strings is a sight to behold and a delight to listen to. Joined by pianist Christian Sands and drummer Jerome Jennings, McBride promised a fun night even among the serious, erudite scholars of Harvard, and as he puts it, to help maintain the balance. McBride certainly delivered; we had a great night of jazz music, from more classic jazz to a jazzed-up Stevie Wonder, but best of all, we saw the wide, infectious smiles of the trio.

We had the giddy chords of “Fried Pies” and “Splittin’” but also the somber “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me).” One standout was “Bauble, Bangles & Beads.” This is a song from the 1953 musical Kismet but has often been performed by jazz musicians. Here, the McBride trio puts their own spin on it, taking advantage of the charming melody and the 3/4 waltz rhythm to enthuse the audience. Later, after inviting his niece (a student at Tufts) in the audience, McBride even had the trio perform Stevie Wonder.

Drummer Jennings had a few solo parts, impressing the audience with his quick tempo and rhythm, but it’s clear he has a good ear for sound; he plays the drums and cymbals with careful attention to the type of sounds he makes, using drum brushes to create that final rush of percussion as the audience claps. However, Jennings wasn’t the only impressive musician on the stage. McBride’s smooth bass playing and Sands’ elegant piano complemented the music with cool tones; this was a performance that oozed with coolness and sophisticated chemistry among the three instruments, and ultimately remained entertaining and rewarding.

Jazz is interesting because it was born with classical influences, yet it actively sheds classical rhythms and harmonies. Intriguing and danceable patterns create wondrous musical harmonies. But technicalities aside, the trio’s love for their craft is what wins the audience over. Harvard’s campus awaits their return.