CD review

Christian McBride – “The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons”

Christian McBride – The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons
(Mack Avenue MAC 1082. CD review by Peter Vacher)

The brilliant US bassist Christian McBride is something of a present-day jazz renaissance man, multi-tasking as performer, bandleader, educator, historian and now, creator of this impressive testimony and tribute to the Civil Rights movement. In effect, what he has devised is a multi-media audio experience, comprising the spoken word – that is the key utterances of the titular four figures – interwoven with orchestral, choral and improvisational musical settings.

Christian McBride album coverMcBride’s icons are Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They may have represented disparate elements in the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s but their words, as McBride puts it in his note, still resonate today. Their words are voiced by actors who know how to convey their continuing worth and significance; each vocal segment is accompanied by telling musical commentaries. As Dr King finally cries out “Free at Last, Free at Last”, it seems entirely appropriate to reflect on just what has been accomplished since his time yet to accept that so much more remains to be done.

Originally a concert commission from the Portland Arts Society in 1998, The Movement Revisited was performed four times in seven days with just McBride’s quartet and a choir. There followed a secondary commission and his ‘new, improved version’ premiered in Los Angeles a decade later. The election of Barack Obama just months after prompted a further re-consideration of content and the words of his Presidential victory speech are incorporated as “Apotheosis: November 4th, 2008”and shared between the readers.  

McBride describes Movement as “a musical portrait of four icons that touched me deeply on a personal level”. He makes no claims for it as a total overview of the Civil Rights Movement, more a very personal and deeply felt response to the roles played by these brave individuals in a period of national tumult.

McBride’s vibrant bass playing is a constant thread, his writing for the big band fragmentary at times but always singular, with key soloists emerging. Mindful of the divergent views of his four chosen subjects, he gives, typically, the soft-spoken Rosa Parks a gently swinging backdrop, with Warren Wolf on vibes and Steve Wilson on soprano sax both prominent, whereas Muhammed Ali elicits an altogether fiercer response, vocally and instrumentally. McBride’s composed interludes are worth the price alone: thoughtful but often edgy too.   

Ambitious, emotionally charged, of course, but deeply felt, this powerful work is a potent reminder that there’s more to be done in Trumpian America, much more. The press release calls The Movement Revisited “a stunning masterpiece”. Rightly so.

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