Christian McBride: The first song I learned to play was “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” by The Temptations
This weekend, acclaimed Philly jazz bassist Christian McBride will be in town for two events. On Saturday evening, he’ll lead his big band at the Kimmel Center in a special show, The Movement Revisited, a mix of jazz and spoken word celebrating four key figures of the Civil Rights Movement: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Muhammad Ali. On Sunday night at World Cafe Live, McBride turns to his alter ego, DJ Brother Mister, when he’ll be joined by WXPN’s David Dye for a funky Sunday night dance party, where McBride will be spinning the funk and R&B and soul, and accompany himself on the bass.
McBride, who also hosts NPR’s Jazz Night In America, recently talked with NPR’s Audie Cornish. While his main musical language is jazz, McBride is clearly a huge all-kinds-of-music fan. In this interview, Cornish turns the conversation into a discussion of McBride’s wide-ranging musical influences. He says the first song he ever learned to play when he was nine years old was “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” by The Temptations. The second song he learned to play? “I Can’t Go For That” by Hall and Oates.
McBride comes from a family of bassists, raised in Philly. He tells Cornish:
My father is a bassist, as well. My whole family is bassists. My father, Lee Smith, and my great uncle Howard Cooper, both professional bassists. And when I was a kid, my father was working with all those great Philly soul groups like the Delfonics, Blue Magic. Then, later on, Major Harris and Billy Paul. And so my upbringing was Gamble and Huff, Philly soul. You know. And that’s the first music I heard. That’s the music that I fell in love with. Of course, all the great Motown records, and needless to say, once I heard James Brown, my life was destroyed. You know, because he just became my musical muse.
While McBride’s love of music as a fan came from pop music, and a healthy dose of James Brown, an early crash course in jazz music by his great uncle set him on a course that has led McBride to a universally acclaimed career as a performer, composer, and educator. Listen to the full interview below. You can get tickets to the funky Sunday dance party this Sunday evening at World Cafe Live here.