Of all the places Joe McBride's music has taken him, none have affected the contemporary jazz pianist and vocalist more than Cape Town, South Africa and his hometown of Dallas, Texas. That fact is underscored by his new enhanced CD for Heads Up International, The Texas Rhythm Club (HUCD 3055), as well as his contribution to the label's Smooth Africa compilation, released earlier this year.
McBride is proud of the fact that his popularity at South African radio has helped fuel the contemporary jazz scene in that country and, in turn, has encouraged the many musicians who performed on Smooth Africa to seek more international recognition for their music.
"What I'm trying to do with The Texas Rhythm Club is show the variety of music and talent in Texas," McBride says. "The talent here is world class, and the music is as good as any around the globe. Be it New York City, L.A., London or wherever, 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 title concept, however. It's the groove and tasteful spice on "Hot Chili Pepper," featuring guitarist Todd Parsnow trading licks with the pianist. It's the shimmering smooth jazz cliff that McBride's keys climb on "White Rock." More than just the rollicking opener and title track, "The Texas Rhythm Club" is also the name of McBride's touring band, who got the chance to showcase their studio chops during the recording of the new album.
"My other records were maybe 70 to 80% computer-drum machine sequenced," explains McBride. "But here we recorded real drums and percussion, real bass and real horns to get that kind of Rhythm Club groove 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, which 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 "On The Money."
"Howzit In Dallas?" is a distillation of a popular Cape Town greeting 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.
On the simmer-to-a-boil sleeper, "Texas Twister," McBride mines his past influences by paying homage to the Houston boo-ga-loo sound of the '60s, and the piano playing native of that city who practically invented it -- Joe Sample. He also evokes his humor on the Lone Star State tribute, "Texas Blues Cruise."
"My vocal work is sometimes inspired by the music itself, like a melody or riff in your head," explains McBride about the concept behind his luscious, heartfelt singing on "It's You," and the expressiveness and vocal maturity on "Everything Remains the Same." "Sometimes I speak about things I've experienced in life and have inspired me. Other times it's a completely different scenario, and it's all for the sake of the creativity of the song. I think I brought a bit of each of those qualities to these songs on the new album."
The various instrumental duties on The Texas Rhythm Club were shared by titans of varied, but equally impressive talent. For instance, Martin Walters, McBride's co-producer on all his recordings, plays bass. Wayne DeLano (known as a leader of his own popular straight-ahead combo in Dallas) plays his soprano, alto and tenor saxophones on most tracks, while guitarist Todd Parsnow plays on others.
McBride explains that one of the things he loves about the scene in Texas is how so many of the musicians respect the rich musical history 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.
"In Dallas, the depth of quality talent is so strong," he notes. "There's an abundance of great people I've had the chance to play with here -- a multiple constellation of musicians -- and it's a very spirited thing."