One might assume that bassist Christian McBride's KIND OF BROWN would be a tribute to Ray Brown. In fact, this music bears a strong resemblance to the late-'60s to mid-'70s Blue Note recordings of the legendary Bobby Hutcherson-Harold Land quintet. A new discovery in vibraphonist Warren Wolf, Jr., teamed with veteran saxophonist Steve Wilson, the wonderful pianist Eric Reed, and drummer Carl Allen makes McBride's quintet Inside Straight one of the more melodically tuneful and harmonically focused contemporary ensembles now playing. McBride is almost an equal in this company, putting aside his furious note playing for a more democratic role in an extraordinarily balanced small combo. The similarities to the Hutcherson-Land group are unmistakable, from the tick-tock rhythm and melodic line similar to Hutch and Herbie Hancock's classic composition "Blow Up" on "Brother Mister" to the steady swinger "Rainbow Wheel" and "Pursuit of Peace," with its probing basslines. The athletic and quirky "Stick and Move" is hard-charging bop at its best with Reed leading. McBride's role as a leader is more pronounced on "Theme for Kareem," an ultra-tight, very hip tune that has potential standard written all over it.
Christian McBride's 2013 studio album, People Music, is the bassist's fourth release on Mack Avenue Records and second with his quintet Inside Straight. Although the lineup has changed slightly, this is the same group of musicians that delivered the equally as stellar 2009 album Kind of Brown. Featured here are vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Peter Martin, alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, and drummer Carl Allen, with drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. jumping on board for a few cuts as well. As with Kind of Brown, People Music features McBride in straight-ahead, acoustic jazz mode with a bent toward the expansive and soulful '60s and '70s recordings of the Bobby Hutcherson-Harold Land quintet.