Christian McBride Knows A Lot About Frank Sinatra

Christian McBride. i i

hide captionDoesn't Christian McBride look like he belongs in the Rat Pack?

courtesy of the artist
Christian McBride.

Doesn't Christian McBride look like he belongs in the Rat Pack?

courtesy of the artist

You learn a lot about musicians when you hijack their digital music players and set them to access files randomly. For instance, bassist Christian McBride apparently records messages from his answering machine — from the seemingly mundane (Herbie Hancock calling about a gig) to the sublime (Abbey Lincoln singing "Happy Birthday" to him).

Before I created The Checkout, I made a radio series about jazz called Living With Music. Christian McBride was a prime candidate for the show. In two decades, he has played with the biggest names in jazz and pop music. He's the creative chair for jazz at the Los Angeles Philharmonic (at least until Hancock takes over next year), co-director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, host of his own radio show ... and he's not even 40. Oh, and he plays a lot of bass.

Since we're presenting Christian McBride live at the Village Vanguard (Wednesday Nov. 11 at 9 p.m. ET), I thought I would revisit this game of Shuffle I played with Christian. Without giving away all the details, let's just say he's listened to the Frank Sinatra and Count Basie concert at The Sands many times, and he also has a scratchy analog-to-digital transfer of this:

"Lots of unusual things happen in traveling. A few weeks ago, I'm riding a train between New York and Washington. When I boarded the train, my first thought's to find my seat, get settled and relax. Once I had gotten settled, I glance across the aisle, and I notice the woman occupying her seat there had her baby there with her. Ugly baby. Bad-looking baby. And I want to make it clear that generally I'd be reluctant to express an opinion of someone's kid — but I know an ugly baby when I see one. ... There's this fellow in the coach — he's half-smashed — when he gets to the section with the woman is with her baby, he stops. And he's staring. And the lady's watching him. She heard him when he said to himself, "Damn." And the lady says, "What are you looking at?" And the guy says, "I'm looking at that ugly baby. That's a bad looking baby, lady. That's a hell of a kid you got there. [whistles] I bet you save a lot of money with that baby. You don't have to hire a babysitter — no one's going to bother that kid." The woman took this as an offense. She pulls the emergency cord, the train stops, there's a big scene, the conductor comes running in. "So what's going on in here? What's going on in here?" And the lady says, "This man just insulted me! I don't have to spend my money to ride this railroad and be insulted." The conductor says, "Now, calm down lady. Madam, the railroad will go to any extent to avoid having differences between the passengers. So perhaps it would be more to your convenience if we would rearrange your seating. And, as a small compensation from the railroad, if you'll accompany me to the dining car, we'll give you a free meal. And maybe we'll find a banana for your monkey."

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