Christian McBride & New Jawn | Prime Review
By Griff Stevens
Christian McBride is an 8-time GRAMMY® Award-winning bassist, composer, bandleader, and one of the forerunning figures in the jazz genre. His latest project, Christian McBride’s New Jawn, comprises trumpeter Josh Evans, saxophonist and bass clarinetist Marcus Strickland, and drummer Nasheet Waits. McBride and company are releasing their highly anticipated sophomore album, Prime, the follow-up to McBride’s GRAMMY® nominated Philly-centric named group. The chordless ensemble performs eight tracks featuring original compositions from each band member as well as arrangements from the jazz repertoire from Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, and Larry Young. This group offers an exhilarating space of exploration for the 8-time GRAMMY® Award-winning McBride to stretch his veteran wings. The word Jawn comes from McBride’s Philly roots; the slang term jawn means “thing.” He explains, “I wanted to do something that was a complete 180 and come at it from a completely different angle,” McBride explained. “I’ve got to be a little more on my toes with the New Jawn – and I like that.”
The title track, “Prime,” has a flowing melody compsed by Strickland with a funky groove aesthetic that gives all the ensemble members space for expression. Everyone knows the power of McBride’s groove, and here the driving force of Waits and McBride can clearly be heard with any chordal interplay or distractions. The hard-bop-styled theme of the melody is carried into the solos as a foundation sound that each player expands upon to generate a powerful modern jazz sounds. Strickland’s tenor saxophone playing is adventurous and centered around strong musical themes. Evans’ trumpet solo is expressive with impressive peaks and valleys. McBride’s bass solo is lyrical and exhibits all the traits that have made him an iconic on the jazz scene today.
For a straightforward swing selection, listen to Evans’ original “Dolphy Dust.” The ensemble is designed to expand on the history and tradition of jazz, and here they genuinely show their modern perspective. McBride’s pulse is interactive as he forms a communication developed with the soloist’s harmonic implications and Waits’ rhythmic patterns. Instilled in an appreciation of pushing the sounds of jazz, Strickland’s tenor saxophone is solid with modern hues and techniques. McBride’s solo is big in sound and melodic weight.
Prime is a beautiful piano-less quartet that establishes a setting to hear the bassist’s interactive approach to playing his role as the anchor between the harmony and the time feel. In this setting, we hear the leader stretch out with the ensemble and as an individual to create a beautiful modern jazz album that is dynamic and representative of the ever-evolving jazz landscape.
Release Date: February 24, 2023
Label: Mack Avenue Records