A “jawn” is apparently Philadelphia street slang for “thing” – in the sense of “doing your own thing”. For McBride “doing his own thing” means playing music on this venture without the use of chords. I am not sure what the humble chord has ever done to McBride but to banish it completely makes for some interesting music. As usual, McBride surrounds himself with some exceptionally talented sidemen including Marcus Strickland on tenor sax and clarinet and Josh Evans on trumpet.
The opening track “Walking Funny” is aptly named and sounds like the soundtrack to a couple of drunks walking precariously down a busy highway with car horns screaming around them. “Ke-Kelli Sketch” starts with an extended drum solo. McBride’s driving bass line eventually takes over and Marcus Strickland and Josh Evans then trade steaming solos for the remainder of the track. “Ballad of Ernie Washington” is a slow number with the trumpet and saxophone playing refined and cool. “The Middle Man” picks up the pace again with a more bebop feel. McBride’s bass drives the pace relentlessly whilst Josh Evans moves into overdrive on trumpet. “Pier One Import” is the second longest track on the album and becomes an extended blowing session between Strickland and Evans. However, Nasheet Waits on drums does more than prop up the back-line with his constant drum interventions as does McBride on bass. “Kush” kicks off a with a soulful trumpet solo from Evans with some melancholy bass line support. Strickland continues the lazy theme on saxophone and McBride adds some nice bowed bass to add to the mood. This must be the slowest track on the album and feels to me like the shade from a much needed tree after being in the sun too long! “Seek the Source” is a mid-tempo number with some fine solo trumpet from Evans whilst “John Day” is also mid-tempo with more interplay between Evans on trumpet and Strickland on bass clarinet.The final track, “Sightseeing”, is the longest track on the album, starting with a bebop drive but meandering in every possible direction before become an extended free for all.
I am a big fan of McBride but I didn’t enjoy this album as much as I would have liked. With the exception of a couple of tracks it was too much of a blowing session on maximum strength steroids for my listening tastes. There is no doubting the quality of the musicianship but the nice thing about chords is that they bring harmony to music. I can appreciate the need to push (even break down) musical boundaries, for what would jazz be without rebels and pioneers? But this adventure lost me some where along the way. I suspect I would have enjoyed this live set more had I been there. At home or in the car it can feel a little bit self-indulgent.
Walkin’ Funny; Ke-Kelli Sketch; Ballad of Ernie Washington; The Middle Man; Pier One Import; Kush; Seek the Source; John Day; Sightseeing (55.44)
McBride (b); Josh Evans (t); Marcus Strickland (ts, cl); Nasheen Waits (d). St. Louis, MO, USA, 25-27 May 2017.
Mack Avenue 1133