State of the Arts: Christian McBride Honors Bobby Womack at Tri-C JazzFest

Jun 21, 2019

Bassist Christian McBride is a Tri-C JazzFest regular having taken the stage a handful of times over the years. Next week he’s back to pay tribute to Cleveland soul legend Bobby Womack. On this week’s State of the Arts WKSU’s Mark Arehart talks with McBride about what makes Cleveland a jazz destination.

Known as one of the faces of jazz today and the host of his own radio show "Jazz Night in America," Christian McBride is often in the spotlight. 

But paying tribute to one of Cleveland's greatest voices? That's new. 

"I'm not from Cleveland, nor am I known primarily as a soul musician," McBride said from the studios of WBGO in Newark, NJ. 

"So the pressure is on me to come to Cleveland to pay tribute to a Clevelander who was a world icon," he said. 

Avery Sunshine, Nona Hendryx and Nigel Hall are joining McBride on stage for the performance at Playhouse Square. 

"We're going to do the best damn Bobby Womack tribute we can do. We want people who come to this concert that knew Bobby Womack, who saw Bobby Womack, to at the end of the night be able to say, 'Yeah, they got it right,'" he said.

What Makes Cleveland Special?

McBride is a sports fan with a soft spot in his heart for Cleveland's underdog sports teams. 

"I know Cleveland always gets a bad rap because of the Browns and the Cavs, particularly the pre-Lebron years," he said.  

He said that underdog mentality spreads into the city's underappreciated musical icons. 

"Underdog cities have always turned out some of the greatest artists," he said 

He points to Cleveland drummer Jerome Jennings, one of his close friends and a former band member. 

"(Jennings) has been one of the baddest drummers in the jazz scene for a long time," he said. 

From Tommy LiPuma to Tadd Dammeron, McBride says there's a legacy of greatness in Cleveland. 

"Every time I come to Cleveland I'm always inspired to create and be a better artist. I love coming there. And I do think the Browns are going to get over the hump," he said.