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Presenting Presence: Christian McBride and Bria Skonberg on how and when to address the audience

Christian McBride with Jaleel Shaw and David Wong
Christian McBride, on the mic, with Jaleel Shaw (left) and David Wong (photo: Alan Nahigian)

Sometimes even the most charismatic artists find themselves in a situation where winning over the audience is far more difficult than anticipated. Such was the case at the 2012 Playboy Jazz Festival, when Christian McBride’s big band was scheduled for a set between Sharon Jones and Sheila E.

“The female James Brown goes out there and leaves the audience in an absolute frenzy, and then here we come with our jazz big-band stuff,” McBride recalls. “And people knew that Sheila E. was about to come on, so in my own paranoia I’m scared they can’t wait for me to go off. I’m thinking, ‘Oh gosh, I’m dead. What do I do? Put my bass down and start breakdancing? Light it on fire like Jimi Hendrix?’ That was one of the most challenging moments of my career, and I actually didn’t know how to handle it.”

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