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Christian McBride Lays Down Roots

At 40, the gifted and ubiquitous bassist mentors an impressive new generation

Christian McBride
Dee Dee Bridgewater and Christian McBride, Monterey Jazz Festival Tour, Santa Cruz, Calif., 1-13
Christian McBride (top, third from left), between Carl Allen (left) and Roy Hargrove, as part of the Jazz Futures, JVC Newport Jazz Festival, 1991
Christian McBride (center) with Christian Sands (left) and Ulysses Owens Jr.
Christian McBride

Christian McBride has a simple but functional metaphor for the jazz continuum, one that he can rattle off with all the persuasive ease of a pocket sermon. “I view the tradition as being like the roots of a tree,” he said one afternoon this winter, at his home in Montclair, N.J. “But you can’t just have the roots. Something’s got to grow out of that: different branches, leaves, the tree’s going to get taller.”

One thing he technically leaves unsaid, probably because it’s obvious, is that a tree is a living organism. Another thing: It can stay alive only as long as those roots remain.

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