Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Apr 15, 2020

MOTHerview with Storyteller Christian McBride

by Suzanne Rust

Christian Mc Bride The Gig

“Freddie tested my confidence big time!”

How did you know that this was the Moth story you had to tell?

Years ago I was asked by my friend Gabrielle Armand to perform at a private event held at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Not only would I perform as a bassist, but I was also informed that there would be a few people from the Moth at this event. They were looking for musicians who would be good storytellers, and Gabrielle thought I’d be a perfect fit for this. She asked me to tell the most moving story I could think of in five minutes. It seemed like my first gig with Freddie Hubbard would be a good one.

You were so young when you set your sights on playing with Freddie Hubbard. Where do you think your confidence came from?

My confidence came from knowing that I’d worked hard at preparing to play with him one day. When his regular bass player at that time had to miss a performance, that’s all I needed, a shot. But as you heard in the story, Freddie tested my confidence big time!  

I love how you say that Freddie was like the jazz equivalent of James Brown. What was it like playing with someone like that for three years? What was the biggest takeaway? 

It’s so hard to give a comprehensive description of what you learn from a jazz legend like that. As with many mentors, their teachings may not sink in for years. But for starters, Freddie always played hard. He left it all on the stage every night. Even when his lips were damaged and he could no longer play with the strength he’d once had, he gave it his all--like an athlete, or James Brown! Not only was he exhausted after every gig, I think his trumpet was, too! 

Who are your favorite storytellers and why?

My mother is the greatest storyteller ever! My dream is to hear her on the Moth. All of my storytelling skills come from her. She’s very detailed when she tells a story. She sets it up, paints a picture, gives you the plot, and brings you home.

What do you listen to in your downtime?

I don’t really listen to anything particular unless I’m working on a specific project. Otherwise, I just listen to my Tidal-generated random playlist, which always has plenty of James Brown. (Hmmmm....that means it might not be so random, huh?) 

Are there any musicians out there that you'd still like to play with?

Gladys Knight and Dolly Parton are on my bucket list. 

What's the best advice you've ever gotten?

“Don’t argue with your wife. You’ll never win. And if you do win, you’ll wish you hadn’t.”

Wildest story? 

Maybe the time Dizzy Gillespie talked to me and gave me advice while he sat on the toilet. 

Proudest moment? 

I’ve had a few, but watching my mother graduate from college was a day I’ll never forget.

Biggest regret?

I have two. Passing up the opportunity to sit in with the Grateful Dead in 1994 and missing a chance to record with Horace Silver in 1996.

Please finish this sentence: storytelling is important because…

It nurtures what so many of us are lacking today - imagination. I sometimes worry that social media has killed our collective desire to tell stories, to read, and to listen. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

When can I come and tell another story?  

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The Gig

by Christian McBride

A young musician gets a once in a lifetime shot at the big time.

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