Christian McBride | Single: “Medgar Evers’ Blues” | Available Now via Mack Avenue Records
Critically Acclaimed Bassist Christian McBride Releases
“Medgar Evers’ Blues,” From Forthcoming
Big Band Release, in Tribute to Assassinated
Civil Rights Leader on Anniversary of His Death
“Medgar Evers’ Blues” Follows in Footsteps of
McBride’s Social Justice Magnum Opus,
The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons
For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver:
Available September 25 via Mack Avenue Records
In September 1966, organist Jimmy Smith and guitarist Wes Montgomery got together at Rudy Van Gelder’s famed studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Over the course of three days, the two jazz icons recorded the material for two now-classic albums: The Dynamic Duo (1966) and Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes (1968), backed by a big band featuring arrangements by the great Oliver Nelson.
That pair of electrifying outings would prove seminal for another dynamic duo over the ensuing decades: bass great Christian McBride and master organist Joey DeFrancesco would wear out the grooves on their copies of the Smith/Montgomery summit meetings during their high school days, and both would remain touchstones throughout a friendship and collaboration that has lasted nearly 40 years. Now, the pair pay tribute with For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver, the third release by the GRAMMY® Award-winning Christian McBride Big Band.
Due for release on September 25 via Mack Avenue Records, For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver echoes the format of the original Smith/Montgomery summit meetings, with a balance of big band and quartet tracks. To complete the core band, McBride called on another longtime friend and collaborator, Mark Whitfield, to play the Montgomery role, while regular CMBB drummer Quincy Phillips anchors the ensemble.
“Medgar Evers’ Blues” & The Movement Revisited:
The album’s second single (following “Don Is”), “Medgar Evers’ Blues”–written by Whitfield–is a tribute to the slain civil rights activist, released in conjunction with the anniversary of his untimely death. He was the first state secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi, and was famous for his efforts to support access to voting after he returned from the Battle of Normandy and was forced away at gunpoint from voting in a local election. Evers hosted registration efforts and organized economic boycotts, stating “Our only hope is to control the vote.”
Evers was also instrumental in the desegregation of schools. After he applied to, and was rejected by the segregated University of Mississippi Law School, he became involved in the NAACP campaign to desegregate the school and was eventually aided by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Brown v. Board of Education stating that the act was unconstitutional. Not long before his murder, Evers was receiving death threats over his public investigation into the murder of Emmett Till as well as his support of fellow activist Clyde Kennard. In the days before his death, molotov cocktails were thrown into his home and he was nearly run down by a car outside of the NAACP office.
On June 12 1963, at just 37 years old, Evers was killed in front of his Jackson, Mississippi home. Hours earlier, President John F. Kennedy made a speech on national television showing his support for civil rights. Like George Floyd, Evers’ murder sparked major unrest and protests over his death and subsequent trials. Two all-white juries failed to convict his killer, a member of the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizen’s Council formed to fight integration in schools, and the man was free for nearly 30 years until he was finally convicted in 1994 with new evidence.
“That which pains me the most is that nearly 60 years after Medgar Evers was assassinated for his efforts to further the cause of civil rights in America, we’re still fighting against the same injustices that have plagued our communities since our emancipation,” explains Whitfield, who wrote the song. “So much about our world, our society, has changed but as a nation we have yet to evolve beyond the indignities paid to our fellow citizens in the name of racism and oppression. Perhaps, remembering the loss of one of our country’s greatest advocates for civil rights and equal treatment for all Americans will help us finally begin to make significant and long lasting improvements to the system that we trust to serve our great nation and to our very human nature which must continue to evolve as we struggle to eradicate racism from our very existence.”
This album follows on the heels of McBride’s social justice magnum opus 20 years in the making, The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons. The album highlights civil rights icons Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, as well as Barack Obama through the voices of Sonia Sanchez, Wendell Pierce, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Dion Graham.
In the 1960s, when the Civil Rights Movement achieved its greatest moments, the gifted bassist and composer was not yet born. As a child in the 1970s, he learned the history of the movement in school, but due to a quirk of fate – his grandmother’s fortunate propensity for saving old things – he found another source of information that spoke to him on a more emotionally accessible level than history books.
“When I was a kid, I used to spend hours looking at old copies of Ebony and Jet magazines that my grandmother saved,” he says. “To read contemporaneous writings by black writers about events and people who were my history – our history – that was absolutely fascinating to me. It was the greatest gift my grandmother could have given to me.”
That gift played a major role in the creation of The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons, McBride’s stunning masterpiece about “the struggle,” which is now a 20 year-long, continuously evolving project. The work combines elements of jazz, gospel, big band, swing, symphony, theater and dramatic spoken word, in a clear-eyed yet optimistic look at where our society has come from and where it is hopefully headed.
Christian McBride · Mack Avenue Records
The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons · Release Date: February 7, 2020
For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver · Release Date: September 25, 2020
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