Pianist Jesse McBride on New Orleans young talent, jazz clubs and more
Aug. 10, 2011 • In this week's Lagniappe Q&A we talked to Jesse McBride.
WHO HE IS: Pianist who leads "The Next Generation," a jazz ensemble founded by Harold Battiste that focuses primarily on the second 50 years of New Orleans jazz.
WHY YOU'VE HEARD OF HIM: McBride gigs several nights a week, but spends a large part of his daytime hours instructing up-and-coming musicians at Tulane University.
WHAT HE'S UP TO: Currently, he is working on a "Next Generation" CD with an anticipated spring release. After that album, he says, the band hopes to release a "Next Generation Big Band" record.
WHERE TO SEE HIM: See Jesse McBride and "The Next Generation" at the Steak Knife, 888 Harrison Ave., every Friday from 7 to 10 p.m. For more information on McBride and the group, visit McBride's website.
Q: Is there a young artist you'd consider a must-see? A: One would be too hard to name. There are so many that are out there, who are playing high-quality music and the community needs to support them.
Q: Where do you go to hear music? A: I really go wherever the music is. I look to see where Ellis Marsalis and Davell Crawford are playing, and I'll head there.
Q: Do you think there are enough jazz venues in New Orleans? A: No, not at all. Just look at Frenchmen (Street) on any given night. You'll find some great music, not much of it though will be jazz. I tell people all the time, take $10 of your disposable income and go hear some jazz wherever you can find it.
Q: What's your best advice to young musicians? A: Books are great, but my advice is go find Lionel Ferbos and any legend you can and listen to what they have to say. They've lived it.
Rat hosts local jazz musicians on campus
by: Alexandra Saizan
For students interested in the New Orleans music scene, two lesser-known music-related events, Jazz at the Rat and Music at Midday, offer the chance to experience local and national acts without leaving Tulane’s campus. After an anonymous benefactor donated to Tulane’s jazz studies program, the music department began to put on concert performances in der Rathskeller in the Lavin-Bernick Center. Both local and student artists are invited to play.
“It brings professional jazz musicians to campus to play alongside students and faculty from Tulane’s Jazz Studies program,” said Trina Beck, the director of programs of Newcomb-Tulane College. Jazz at the Rat allows students to not only learn about famous New Orleans musicians but to also learn the musicians’ techniques and get advice on their playing skills. The concert’s first season featured Clyde Kerr, Jr., who died recently.
The Jazz at the Rat director, Jesse McBride, and his students have paid homage to Kerr in recent shows. McBride said he wants his protégées to know about more than just the greats. “At first, I wanted to make sure the students were exposed to the masters that are here in New Orleans,” McBride said. “Now, I want to introduce the ‘Next Generation’ concept to the series and the school, young players that are great but are not known by our students. It is an attempt to get the students to learn the young cats on the scene so they go out into the city and listen to each other.” Jazz at the Rat offers an opportunity for all students, not just those studying music, to experience New Orleans music free of charge. It takes place 8 p.m. Thursday nights. “If students would like to be a part of living art, I encourage them to come and hang at The Rat with us,” McBride said.
Another music-related event, Music at Midday, offers the opportunity to listen to music against the background of the Rogers Memorial Chapel. Robert Weirich, a former member of the music department’s piano faculty, initiated the Music at Midday series. Music Department Chair Peter Hansen ran the program in the ’80s. The idea was to put on lunchtime concerts that students could attend before 1 p.m. classes. In the beginning, it was obligatory for students taking music appreciation courses. This concert series features musicians playing a wide range of instruments, including ones familiar to students, such as guitar and piano, as well as ones that may not be, such as medieval instruments and the harp. The musicians are not limited to New Orleans; both national and international players have taken part in this event. “Tulane students in particular are provided a chance to explore the varied music of different types and times during their years of study, and [this] gives them the opportunity to discover the rich repertoire left to us by men of genius over the centuries, and thus enrich their personal lives well past their student days,” Weilbaecher said. Music at Midday takes place at noon Wednesdays in the Rogers Memorial Chapel.
Jesse McBride And The Next Generation: Unfinished Blues
by Josh Jackson
Did you know the first independent music recording company owned and operated by African-American musicians started in New Orleans? Saxophonist and producer Harold Battiste created All For One (AFO) Records in 1961. It folded in two years time, but not before AFO had unleashed a million-seller, "I Know," from singer Barbara George. It also served as a platform for modern jazz musicians in New Orleans: pianist Ellis Marsalis, drummers James Black and Ed Blackwell, clarinetist Alvin Batiste and trumpeter Melvin Lastie all contributed to the continuing success of modern jazz in the city.
Pianist Jesse McBride is a graduate of Houston's High School for Performing and Visual Arts, a place that has nurtured a generous share of today's music talent (Beyonce and Robert Glasper, a McBride classmate, are just the tip of the iceberg). After Hurricane Katrina, McBride relocated to New York — briefly. He quickly returned to the New Orleans music scene where he'd studied with Battiste, Marsalis, and a host of other great performer-educators. McBride has now earned a similar hyphenation as both teacher and mentor. He has also assumed the mantle of carrying forward the legacy of modern jazz and AFO in New Orleans.
At the WWOZ Jazz Tent, his sextet included trumpet, saxophone, vibes and singer Johnaye Kendrick ahead of a rhythm section led by McBride. Harold Battiste sat upright, sax in hand, urging them on with two simple acts — being present and listening. The Historic New Orleans Collection contains in its archive the Harold Battiste's papers. They are also publishing Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Blues Man, by Harold Battiste Jr. with Karen Celestan, due June 2010, according to their website.
Campus Feels The Beat
October 28, 2009 Catherine Freshley firstname.lastname@example.org
Walk by Der Rathskellar on the Tulane uptown campus most nights and you're likely to hear the students cheering for a football or basketball game. But on a few nights in the fall and the spring, "The Rat," a sports bar-style eatery, plays host to legends of New Orleans jazz.
Jazz at the RatJazz at the Rat, in its second semester, is part of the Lagniappe program, which also will bring pianist Ellis Marsalis to the uptown campus for a free concert later in November.
Jazz at the Rat provides Tulane students with a rare opportunity — not only does the series bring jazz legends right into their "living room," but students and faculty in the Tulane Jazz Studies program are invited to play on stage with the musicians. "
As a developing musician, nothing beats playing alongside a master," says Trina Beck, director of Newcomb-Tulane College programs.
Beck credits Jesse McBride, an accomplished musician and popular tutor in the music department, with orchestrating that aspect of the program and reaching out to potential guest artists.
This Thursday (Oct. 29) percussionist Bill Summers plays at 8 p.m. The New Orleans-based musician's long career includes working with Quincy Jones on the score for Roots, playing with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters and starting Los Hombres Calientes with Irvin Mayfield.
Summers is a perfect fit for this year's program, Beck says, because Summers' Afro-Caribbean style ties in well with this fall's Tulane Reading Project that featured the book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
Several shows are in the works for the spring semester. Beck says some will be feature artists that will be in town for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Der Rathskellar is located on the Garden Level of the Lavin-Bernick Center.
Jesse McBride - Crecent City's Next Generation
January 2008 • Pianist Jesse McBride wants to remind everyone that jazz in New Orleans is not stuck in days gone by. His recent disc, Jesse McBride Presents “The Next Generation” (All For One), features a young band performing the music of their mentors, from an era of their city’s history that still cries out for wider recognition.
“If you’re ignorant, you think tha New York is the be-all and end-all of modern jazz,” McBride said. “Cats in New Orleans are at the top of the field, and they’re writing compositions that are as beautiful as anybody writing in jazz.”
“I was amazed at the level of composition that these cats had,” McBride said. “Ellis, Harold, and James Black in particular. I had never heard a drummer write stuff that is so melodically beautiful.”
The band honed its approach from a standing Tuesday gig at the New Orleans jazz club Snug Harbor in October 2006. At these gigs, McBride led his young band through their own takes on their mentors’ works, like their version of the ‘70s jazz groove of Battiste’s “Song for Dance.” That youthfulness also came through in the way saxophonist Rex Gregory jumped into his solo on “Somp’um Sorta Funky.”
McBride came across contemporary New Orleans jazz in his Houston high school when classmate Robert Glasper gave him a tape of Marsalis’ Heart Of Gold and Whistle Stop.
“I just poked my head into his office, and we struck up a conversation,” McBride said. “I started listening to records with him.”Battiste said that McBride has embraced the mission of AFO. “People think of New Orleans as a the birthplace of jazz, but when it gets to the 1940s and 1950s, people get the impression that the music was in New York and other places,” Battiste said. “That’s why I started AFO. Jesse became interested in doing something in that legacy, and he’s an enthusiastic and ambitious cat.”
Making Music With The Pros
Jan. 14, 2008 • Surrounded by the vibrant music culture that is New Orleans, the Newcomb Department of Music at Tulane brings professionals such as singer Leah Chase and jazz pianist Jesse McBride on campus to teach.
The music department offers approximately 200 hours of private instruction each semester.
Barbara Jazwinski, chair of the music department, says that as the applied music program has grown in popularity the department has hired more local and internationally known musicians as tutors.
“It is a sophisticated program that has been around for more than 20 years and is a means of making up for having a relatively small full-time faculty,” says Jazwinski. “Each semester we have approximately 20 applied music tutors available, but that number varies depending on what the students request.”
Students may register for the tutoring sessions at the start of the semester as they register for their other courses. The applied music courses allow students to meet individually with instructors for one hour each week and earn two academic credits.
While the tutoring sessions are intense, accomplished instructors such as Chase, a renowned jazz vocalist, and McBride, an up-and-coming jazz musician, are among those with whom students are eager to work.
John Doheny, professor of practice and coordinator of jazz performance studies in the music department, says that McBride taught for the first time during the fall semester.
“He’s a young looking guy, and people would sometimes mistake him for a student,” says Doheny. “But they’ve warmed up to him enormously as a musician and as a tutor.”
McBride, 28, says that in his first semester as a tutor he worked with 11 students.
“The biggest lesson I can pass on is to listen,” McBride says. “If you want to be a jazz musician you have to listen for cohesiveness in the unit and you have to communicate with the rhythm section.”
Jazwinski believes that tutors like Chase and McBride will strengthen the department’s performance program — a goal that she says is important to any music department.
“An excellent performance program is the backbone of every music program, from composition to music history, to music science,” Jazwinski says. “That’s what we are working toward.”
Tuesdays With Jesse
Nov. 20, 2007 • You can measure the health of a jazz scene by ticket sales, press clips or record deals, but here in New Orleans there is another way to do it: by counting the number of young, aspiring players on local stages. Thanks to pianist Jesse McBride, that number jumps every Tuesday as he brings his "Next Generation" quintet to Snug Harbor.
The ongoing gig at the flagship jazz club started in October 2006, after McBride returned from his post-Hurricane Katrina exile in Manhattan. While in New York, McBride had organized bookings for New Orleans musicians, including regular Sunday night gigs at a Greenwich Village club.
"I could easily have stayed in New York after the hurricane, but I moved back to be part of the positive changes here," McBride said. "I wanted younger players to have the kind of opportunities that I did when I came to New Orleans from Houston in 1998."
"New Orleans was one of the greatest environments for aspiring student musicians," Masakowski said. "Unlike most cities, there were many opportunities for kids to play gigs and learn their craft on the job. That scene has bounced back after the storm, and Jesse has been helping that process with his weekly gig at Snug Harbor. In a sense, he's taken the reins from Harold Battiste, who did so much to promote young talent in New Orleans. "
McBride, 28, views Battiste as a mentor.
"I walked into his UNO office in the spring of 1999, and everything changed for me," McBride said. "I'd go there all the time, listen to his records or listen to him pull out his horn to teach me a tune. Around 2001, I started to play in his band."
Battiste's goal was to make sure that newcomers were exposed to the distinctive compositions and playing style of his generation of New Orleans modernists: Ellis Marsalis, Alvin "Red" Tyler, James Black and himself. He called his band "The Next Generation" -- a concept and a name that McBride has inherited.
On a recent Tuesday, McBride's quintet played works by Black and Battiste, an Ellington ballad and a couple of deft originals by the band's saxophonist Rex Gregory. Their sound was vintage: hard-bop chord changes and folkie modal melodies, with the rhythm spread between bassist David Pulphus, drummer Geoff Clapp, James Westfall on vibes and McBride on Snug Harbor's baby grand piano. Full of echoes from the history of jazz since 1950, this was music for those who like the burnished technique and archival focus of Wynton Marsalis and his disciples.
It was also swinging good fun for a crowd of locals and visitors.
"The New Orleans compositions give us a unique sound," McBride said. "There's something in their rhythms that feels natural, like breathing. They lead us into a special New Orleans groove where it doesn't matter if you're playing in a brass band or a modern quintet. These tunes remind you that New Orleans drummers have changed the shape of music -- not just jazz, but rock, funk and even Broadway."
The group also benefits from a tight, well-rehearsed sound. They play at full-throttle from the start of a set, with none of the long warm-ups required when musicians are meeting for more casual performances.
"Jazz musicians in New Orleans are used to jamming in pick-up bands," McBride said. "There's a freedom to that kind of situation, but, for me, it's even more spontaneous with a working band. We know each other's ins and outs, so we can go to another level, by changing keys, changing the groove. We know these tunes, and we know each other."
"If it sounds good, it's because we work hard to choose material that shows off the skills of our guests," McBride said. "It's not supposed to be a cutting contest. It's about learning in a professional setting."
McBride's commitment to education goes beyond the bandstand. He also teaches improvisation and jazz piano at both Tulane and Dillard universities.
"I looked at the problems in New Orleans today, the politics of the Hurricane Katrina debacle, the racism, the youth left out to dry, and I knew I had to do something. With this band, I'm part of something larger -- a generation that doesn't want to repeat past mistakes, that wants to steer kids toward positive change. As musicians, we don't have power, but we have voices, we have instruments, so we have hope."
The Music is the Message
Sept. 13, 2007 •
Hot-fingered work by pianist Jesse McBride echoes that mood,
dropping in dissonant notes that reflect suffering and struggle
that are conquered by the persistant rhythms. McBride's playing
in the soulful second movement was elegiac and dreamy, well
matched with words that bemoan the violence wracking the city.
These accompany Lokumbe's burnished warmth on the mournful trumpet,
which gently weeps before gasping out a final breath.
The Big Easy Comes to the Big Apple
2006 • On a warm spring evening, Jesse McBride, a jazz pianist from New Orleans, ambled down Christopher Street in the West Village, toting a large plastic bag of CDs.
“My friend and I, we just hit up the Vault,” said McBride, referring to the downtown record store. “I've got to restock, you know? I lost everything, all my music, even my computer. Everything.
McBride, 26, left New Orleans the day before Hurricane Katrina hit last August with only his car and a few changes of clothes. He went to live with family in Houston until he was allowed back into his house in November. Then, salvaging what he could, he set his sights on New York's jazz scene.
While New Orleans is historically known as the birthplace of jazz, New York City has been considered the jazz capital.
A number of musicians who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina moved to
New York, drawn by the vibrant music scene or friends and family already
living in the city. Kim Foreman, a spokesman for the New Orleans chapter
of the American Federation of Musicians, estimated that roughly half of
the city's 4,000 musicians relocated after the storm, though just how many
of them relocated to New York is unclear. Only half of the New Orleans
population, which topped 470,000 before the storm, still live there...
"Do You Know…Jesse McBride"
June 2006 • Who: Pianist Jesse McBride, 26, moved from Houston, Texas to New Orleans in 1998 to study with Ellis Marsalis at the University of New Orleans. Active on the jazz scene, McBride headed the group Harold Battiste Presents the Next Generation and performed with trumpeter Maurice Brown, vibist James Westfall and many others.
Where: Snug Harbor, June 1, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Why: While in New Orleans, McBride was the keeper of the flame of University of New Orleans professor/saxophonist Harold Battiste’s concept of keeping the music and the musicians of the “second generation of New Orleans jazz” alive by having young artists perform compositions of those who came before them.
Presently residing in New York, McBride has continued the quest at his weekly Jesse McBride Presents the Next Generation at Sweet Rhythm. Former UNO students such as Westfall and saxophonist John Ellis have also joined McBride at the club playing tunes such as Ellis Marsalis’ “Swinging at the Haven” and Battiste’s “Beautiful Old Ladies.”
“They were friends, that’s why the music sounds so personal,” says McBride of these compositions and others by such noted players as drummer James Black and saxophonist Nat Perrilliat. “And my band is like that too. I’m up here bring New Orleans to New York.”
The pianist, who has made several trips back to the city and hopes to return someday soon, explains that he often introduces a song with a little history about the it or the composer.
What you need to know: McBride, who comes from a family of musicians and educators, has been finishing his studies at UNO online and plans to walk down the aisle to receive his diploma on May 22. Recently, he has also been gigging with vocalist Carmen Lundy.
“He just saw a need,” says Battiste of McBride’s enthusiasm in jumping in to help him with the Next Generation concept and now extending it outside of the city and into the future. “His mama raised him good.”
At Snug Harbor fellow UNO grads drummer Dylan Hicks and bassist Peter Harris plus trumpeter Andrew Baham will join him.