Christian McBride chats with students after the masterclass.

Master bassist Christian McBride coaches VCA students

VCA was excited to celebrate the true spirit of jazz with the Melbourne International Jazz Festival this year. We proudly supported “one of the best jazz bassists in the world” (New York Times) Christian McBride and his Trio’s performance at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Then, before the musicians got back on the plane, they stopped in at the VCA for a very special, packed masterclass with our Contemporary Music students.

Here, Isaac Gunnoo, a first year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Contemporary Music Performance) student reflects on his experience as part of the masterclass with Christian McBride bass, Christian Sands piano, Ulysses Owens Jr. drums.

Christian McBride bass and Ulysses Owens Jr. drums.
Christian McBride bass and Ulysses Owens Jr. drums.

Isaac’s reflection

The thing that struck me most about this group, after I got over their incredible technique and musicality, was the way they were so incredibly in tune with each other’s playing.

I talked to other students and our teachers about the importance of having a connection within a group and what it can bring to a performance. This revealed that, generally speaking, everyone has at least one person who they love to play music with. Creating a space where they both understand each other’s sound and capabilities to the extent that you can sense what they’re thinking and feeling while you’re playing. The kind of relationship that can make a great performance.

Christian Sands piano and Christian McBride bass.
Christian Sands piano and Christian McBride bass.

This Christian McBride Trio has this kind of relationship. To the point that their music and attitudes while they were playing gave you the feeling that they were so mentally connected that their instruments were secondary to what they were doing.

This kind of connection is easy to see when they’re cracking jokes while they’re playing, but the depth of their connection was so great that they conveyed it in everything they did. From their musical ideas to the way they talked to us about their influences, ways of getting over creative blocks and nerves, and their experiences of working with some of the great jazz and soul musicians of the 20th Century such as Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Buddy Rich, Ray Brown, Wayne Shorter, and Brian Blade.

Christian McBride coaches VCA student on piano.
Christian McBride coaches VCA student on piano.

When you think about the groups roots, like their teachers Ray Brown and Herlin Riley, their sound is so very appropriate, though strictly individual and distinguishable from their influences. This is a result of their incredible technique, group dynamic and respect for the masters, but infused with their own improvisatory genius that, to me, redefined the style of the jazz standards they are playing into something more contemporary and unique.

Christian McBride talks to Isaac Gunnoo after the masterclass.
Christian McBride talks to Isaac Gunnoo after the masterclass.

Christian McBride’s visit to Melbourne was made possible by the VCA & MCM Master Teacher Program, supported by the State Government, through Arts Victoria.

A version of this article originally appeared on Channel, the Faculty’s previous publishing platform.