An Interview with Joe McBride
A Few Words With
by Ray Redmond
Of all of the places Joe McBride’s music has taken him in 2000, none has affected the contemporary jazz star more than Cape Town, South Africa and his hometown of Dallas, Texas. That fact is underscored by his fifth Heads Up International release, The Texas Rhythm Club, as well as his contribution to the label’s Smooth Africa compilation, released earlier this year.
Ironically, that land down under and far away, where McBride played in January with the Heads Up Superband, probably has more jazz musicians who are well known in the United States, than those headquartered in the Big D. Erasing that anonymity is part of the concept of the Texas Rhythm Club
“What I’m trying to do with the Texas Rhythm Club is show the variety of music and the talent that is in Texas,” McBride says. “The talent is world class and the music as good as any around the globe, be it New York City, L.A., London or whatever, we’ve got the equal in Dallas. I’m trying to illustrate with this album that, not only Texas, but primarily the Dallas-Fort Worth area is a fine place to live and has lots of great music and musicians.”
The Texas Rhythm Club is more than a titled-concept, however. It’s the groove and tasteful spice on Hot Chili Pepper t. It’s the shimmering smooth jazz cliff that McBride’s keys climb on White Rock. It’s much more than just the rollicking opener and title track, the Texas Rhythm Club is also the name of the aggregation that McBride tours with, but until now, has yet to record with.
“My other records were maybe 70 to 80% computer-drum machine sequenced, and I’m still using that process on this album,” explains McBride. “But I’ve added more of the real drums, real bass and real horns to get that kind of Rhythm Club groove going on that we cook up live all the time.”
That Texas Rhythm Club groove is most obvious on the title track, which McBride says, “rocks more than anything on the record.” The style, that can be described as a funky danceable mix of hook laden r&b and contemporary jazz, punctuated by kicking horns, can also be heard on the tracks Lone Star Boogie, and the slick Handjive.
The cadre of musicians who are all part of the groove and the band that McBride call the Texas Rhythm Club are not all represented here. He calls it a “multiple constellation” of musicians that form the pool of regulars, super-subs, friends-old and new- that he uses live night after night, at home and on the road. In Dallas, the depth of quality talent is so strong, that the players left off the recording could’ve made a recording just as strong.
“Some of these guys have been with me longer than others. Some of them are people I recently met and our camaraderie was strong and we became tight through enjoying each other’s talent, and most of the people, if not living in Dallas, frequent the area quite a bit
“The atmosphere around here is pretty much that you play with people that you know and are around the most,” McBride continues. “There’s an abundance of a lot of different people that I’ve had the chance to play with in Dallas, and it’s a very spirited thing, but these guys have their own things going on too.”
Wayne Delano is a musician the pianist points at to the solidify his point. Was he in New York City or L.A., the jazz world may already know about this multi-reed man. Delano is the primary sax player with the Texas Rhythm Club, but in addition to contemporary jazz he plays here, Delano also leads his own straight ahead combo in Dallas.
With pride, McBride points out that Delano plays soprano, tenor, alto and baritone, and should never be associated with the legendary style of Texas tenor playing. He explains that one of the things he loves about the scene in Texas is how so many of the musicians respect the rich musical past of Austin, Houston and Dallas, but are constantly looking to the future to hone their skills. He calls his companions a new breed of Texas contemporary jazz musicians.
On the simmer-to-a-boil sleeper, Texas Twister, McBride does some mining of his own Texas influences of the past by paying homage to the Houston boo-ga-loo sound of the 60’s, and the piano playing native of that city who practically invented it, Joe Sample.
Howzit In Dallas is a distillation of a popular greeting in Cape Town that McBride brought back with him from his visits to South Africa. Just like, 11 K’s To Freedom, the track McBride contributed to the aforementioned Smooth Africa compilation, Howzit In Dallas has an undeniable smooth urban flair that transcends boundaries, both musical and geographical.
“I had such a wonderful time in South Africa,” McBride comments. “It’s so amazing to be able to visit there, especially upon reflecting on years in the past when it wasn’t really possible or feasible. But with the ending of Apartheid, there are things going on there and it has open up quite a bit.”
In January of 1999, Joe McBride, backed by a group of South African musicians, made history and became the first American act to play the historic Cape Town Jazzathon. But, he’s not the first McBride to come to prominence in the United States.
Joe McBride was born AGE years ago in Fulton, Missouri where his father’s brother, Bake McBride, was an outfielder with the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians baseball teams. The younger McBride studied music at the Missouri School for the Blind and Webster University in suburban St. Louis.
St. Louis was not only the city where McBride began to nurture his musical originality, but also the restless spirit he is known for. Those formative years in the mid-west music scene were followed by a short stay in San Diego, the birth place of smooth jazz radio.
“I played with several people there while I was out there,” remembers McBride. “It was about 1983, and I met and played with (guitarist) Steve Laury and members of the band Fattburger. San Diego is a wonderful place, and I still like to hang out there because I have friends and family there. But it didn’t click like Dallas did.”
McBride came to Dallas in ’85 to visit his brother who works for a major computer company there. He had no intention of staying more than a couple of weeks, but before he could leave, the telephone was ringing with offers to play. He says his introduction into the city’s scene started slowly like a snowball rolling down a hill, until it was up to full speed and he found himself one of the top attractions in town opening up for internationally known jazz and pop stars alike.
It was during these early years that he met a young trumpeter named Dave Love at a function for North Texas State University. The two became fast friends, and when Love went into the other side of the music business and started Heads Up International, the executive remembered the soulful pianist/vocalist that he met in Dallas and signed him to a record deal.
The resulting album, Grace, released in 1992, instantly made McBride a core artist at smooth jazz radio, a fan favorite, and introduced the pianist to a galaxy of jazz stars. His subsequent albums, 1994’s A Gift For Tomorrow, 96’s Keys To Your Hear, and Double Take, from ’98, all featured an impressive list of guest solo artists, including Grover Washington Jr., Richard Elliot, Phil Perry, Peter White, Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Larry Carlton and many others.
“I have truly been blessed to be in the company of some very fine musicians and it’s all been a wonderful thing,” concludes McBride, “but featuring the my guys in the Texas Rhythm Club has been long overdue. After all, this is the place that I reside in, the place the I call home. All of the places I’ve been, and all of the people I’ve met has been like a metamorphosis in my life, all part of the road that one travels. This album, Texas Rhythm Club, is part of that journey, and its been really special putting it together.”