This impressive resume, however, does not mask the fact McBride's recording, The Process, Volume One, is a disjointed affair. The problem lies in its trying to be too many things with too wide a scope that doesn't do justice to the strengths McBride possesses. His real strength is the ability to compose jazz tunes which employ vocal leads. Four of the nine tunes fall into this category, with Lauren being the best. The melody of this piece is breezy, fun and light with just the right sense of vocal embellishment by vocalist Croft. Jason Jackson's horn background arrangement contains all of the rhythmically popping elements needed to add kick and creative drive and here McBride, as a performer, doesn't need to show chops during his solo, just soul, which he has in aces. It's unfortunate smooth jazz radio stations limit their vocal driven cuts to Norah Jones and old R&B because this tune deserves air play.
The other three vocal-driven tunes penned by McBride illustrate the problem with the recording. While they are all extremely clever, the style of each is totally different from the other. French Girls is a 1940s big band-styled swing piece, Lucindee is a Latin/Cuban-styled piece which would not sound out of place on a Manhattan Transfer recording, and What's Coming is a subtle swinger. With different lead singers and such a wide variety of styles covered there is no way the listener can ever be prepared for the big changes from one cut to the next. Even saxophonist Javon Jackson, who is known for the wide diversity of material on his early recordings as a leader, always found ways to unite the material by putting a personal stamp on each tune which clearly stated it was his record from beginning to end. McBride fails to do this. As a performer McBride only appears as a section member on the two of the above three pieces and has a forgettable solo on Lucindee.
While the instrumental numbers composed by McBride are pretty they aren't memorable and they, as well, cover too great a range of styles without a unique McBride signature to each. He doesn't perform on the seriously down-tempo Deserting The Boogeyman and the Tom Scott influenced If Not Now has too many short solos and not enough of the hook to grab the listener's attention. The exception is Goodbye which is a sweet and soulful composition where McBride gets to show off the strengths of his playing - extremely soulful lines which don't demand a display of improvisational flair. As a performer McBride has a solid expressive style and full-bodied tone, but his solos lack creative juice, tend to just sit within predictable rhythmic patterns and don't build. In fairness, McBride's self-penned liner notes state he's not the strongest performer on the recording, "This CD is part of a recorded documentary about 'normal, everyday' jazz musicians.... This is just the beginning of their story, which is reflective of the lives of thousands of jazz musicians far more talented than me." There is no doubt a great CD lies within the reach of McBride, this just isn't it.