Christian McBride had never even written a single set of lyrics when he was tasked to compose a suite for a gospel choir in 1998. So rather than entrust himself with the words, he turned to four of the most momentous speakers of the 20th century: Civil Rights icons Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Everything that those people said in the ’60s had such weight and meaning to it,” McBride says. “My job was just to bring a little music to it and enhance it.”
“The Movement” was expanded last year with the addition of a fifth movement inspired by Barack Obama. “The election of Obama is a direct result of the Civil Rights movement,” McBride explains. “This is what King and Rosa Parks and Malcolm X had in mind. For them it was a dream; for us, it’s the reality.”
Saturday’s performance of “The Movement, Revisited” at the Annenberg Center, in celebration of Black History Month, will mark the suite’s premiere in McBride’s native Philadelphia. For the occasion, McBride — who parlayed his education at CAPA and the Clef Club into a career as one of the most in-demand bassists in modern jazz — will be joined by UPenn’s New Spirit of Penn Gospel Choir and the Penn Jazz Ensemble, along with several alumni serving as narrators.
Christian McBride’s ‘The Movement, Revisited’
Saturday, 8 p.m.
Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
3680 Walnut St.