Bassist/composer Christian McBride originally wrote “The Movement Revisited” in 1998 for his quartet, a gospel choir and narrators reading the words of civil rights icons Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. When he was approached 10 years later by the L.A. Philharmonic to revive the piece, he fibbed a bit to make his most ambitious composition even bigger.
“Thank goodness there were no iPhones in 1998, because I lied and said it was a piece I wrote for my big band,” McBride recalled earlier this week. “I’ve since apologized, but it forced me to literally rewrite the entire piece for big band.”
He also expanded the suite with the addition of a movement, “Apotheosis: November 4, 2008,” a tribute to the election of Barack Obama, which McBride called “the result of all the hard work that the four people featured in ‘The Movement Revisited’ did throughout that period.”
The in-demand jazz superstar will bring “The Movement Revisited” to his native Philly for the first time with his own 18-piece big band next weekend, joined by the Philadelphia Heritage Chorale and four narrators, including poet Sonia Sanchez and actor Dion Graham.
“I can’t begin to tell you how special this is,” he said. “I really want to give it my all, and I know the guys in the band are going to bring their A-game because they understand the significance not just of the piece, but to be playing it in my hometown.”
The composer described writing the suite as an attempt to “capture the personality of each person musically and try to enhance the spirit of their words through the music.” For Dr. King, “a soldier and leader of a world army,” the movement has a militaristic, slow march feel; Ali’s expresses the boxer’s “loud, brash, fearless” identity; the Malcolm X movement focuses on his transformation following his journey to Mecca; and the Rosa Parks section communicates the activist’s “soft but strong power,” which McBride had the opportunity to witness first-hand in two meetings with Parks.
McBride understands that Ali may seem a mismatch with the other honorees in the piece, but said that while “Ali was not a religious or a political leader, you can’t say that his not going to Vietnam wasn’t a pivotal act of the 1960s.
“What it cost him, considering he was the heavyweight champion of the world, to tell the American government to go to hell, I won’t fight your war, I think that was very significant whether you’re a political or social leader or not.”
If you go:
Christian McBride: “The Movement Revisited”
Nov. 21, 8 p.m.
250 S. Broad St.
$29 to $72, 215-893-1999