Christian McBride’s new duet with Sting, a smart and groove-filled take on 1985′s “Consider Me Gone,” shows again why the former Police frontman’s original synthesis of new wave and jazz seemed so interesting in the first place.
Sting, as has become his wont lately, begins by singing on this new take — included on McBride’s forthcoming Conversations with Christian, due today from Mack Avenue — with what can only be called a prosaic whisper. No surprise there. But he doesn’t fall completely into caricature, can’t really, because of McBride’s pleasant thump. Taking over Sting’s principal instrument, but playing with a breathless verve, McBride has the bracing presence of a shot from a brown bottle.
[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: On his 2011 big band project, Christian McBride moved with confidence from a brawny, Count Basie-ish bounce on “Broadway” through to his ambitious tone-poem “Science Fiction.”]
“To look for heaven,” Sting sings, “is to live here in hell” — then he falls into a unselfconscious (an almost unheard-of rarity these days) scat. The undulating, persistently swinging din rising behind him pushes Sting past whatever pretensions have welled up in his persona — precisely the same thing that happened on his first, best, solo outing, when guys like Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland and Omar Hakim nudged the former Police frontman away from his already-burgeoning professorial tendencies.
It sounds like McBride’s helping Sting hear the song again for the first time, or I guess like he heard it the first time, on The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Sting seems, finally, to be performing again instinctively, spontaneously, without the self-conscious theatricality — or, more specifically, the intolerable pedantry — that has doomed more recent efforts.
This update of “Consider Me Gone” doesn’t exactly return Sting to his reggae-fied punk roots, much less the kinky decadence of the late 1970s scene from which the Police sprang, but it certainly peels away a couple of decades of worth of cello-couched pretension. That in itself is a gift.