Grammy-winning jazz bassist teaches masterclass at Columbia High

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Jazz students from Columbia High School and Maplewood and South Orange middle schools gathered in CHS’ auditorium on Wednesday, Nov. 20, for a free jazz masterclass event hosted by New Jersey Performing Arts Center and made possible by support from TD Bank. 

Six-time Grammy Award-winning jazz bassist Christian McBride interacted with student ensembles, addressing a range of topics tailored to help students improve musicianship, ensemble blending, rhythm section support and comping. 

At one point, McBride, who plays numerous instruments, jumped on the drum set and modeled what he called “feathering” with the kick drum to help support a walking bass line. Student drummers all had an opportunity to try out feathering with the ensemble and an overall improvement in the rhythm section glue was immediately noticed. 

The session concluded with a 15-minute question-and-answer period where student questions predominantly centered around improvising strategies and improving soloing techniques. McBride’s suggested students listen to great solos and copy playing those solos, learn what scale notes to play over different chords as they begin to develop their jazz language, and play fluid linear phrases that tell a story rather than a few unconnected notes. 

Photos Courtesy of James Manno