Sting and Christian McBride Perform at Benefit for Jazz House Kids

Bass Magazine was in attendance at the exclusive fundraising event that raised close to $800k to support nonprofit’s nationally recognized jazz education + performance programs

Sting and Christian McBride Perform at Benefit for Jazz House Kids

Bass Magazine was in attendance at the exclusive fundraising event that raised close to $800k to support nonprofit’s nationally recognized jazz education + performance programs

Photo by Richard Conde

photo: Neil Grabowsky

The bass universe aligns in a special way whenever Sting and Christian McBride get together, and that was the case on February 28th, as the two teamed up for the Ralph Pucci 8th Annual Jazz Set, The Lowdown: Conversations with Christian, to benefit Jazz House Kids, a nonprofit jazz education and performance organization, founded and headed by Christian’s wife, Melissa Walker. After an introduction thanking the roughly 250 donors and staff, and a performance by students of “Fields of Gold” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” McBride called Sting to the stage. The pair provided some back story on their first time working together (on the weekend of 9/11) and Sting expressed his gratitude for the work of Jazz House Kids and stressed the importance of kids learning how to play music, which is too often cut from school programs. For their first piece, “Roxanne,” Sting sang and played his Italian-made nylon string acoustic guitar (whose story he would later relate), with McBride on upright, and Sting’s musical director Rob Mathes on piano. Leaning into his jazzier repertoire, Sting next called “Moon Over Bourbon Street,” after which he spoke about his affection for jazz. It was initiated soon after he started playing guitar at age 8 by a classmate who brought him a live album by Thelonius Monk, and urged him to, “Keep listening to it, even though you won’t like it at first.”

McBride queried Sting about his ability to appeal to both jazz musicians and the general public with his songs. Sting explained that the brain is split, with the right side able to process simple harmony, but the left side needed to process more complex harmony. “I stand astride those two parts with my music,” he smiled. Following a chat about Sting’s recent projects with Shaggy, his current tour opposite Billy Joel, and the acknowledgment of special audience members, Kool & the Gang bassist Robert “Kool” Bell and Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler, the trio performed “Sister Moon.” Sting noted that Herbie Hancock later covered it, and that they were going to end with the keyboard giant’s (tricky rhythmic) arrangement.

photo: Richard Conde


“Message in a Bottle” was the next topic, with Sting revealing how the tropical location he wrote it in inspired the lyrics. On the music side he related how he wanted to expand on the traditional rock and roll shape of a 5th, or power chord by adding the ninth (1-5-9) thus creating the song’s memorable arpeggiated guitar line. He also spoke about Message in a Bottle, the new play with modern dance that’s set to 27 of his songs (it arrives at New York City Center in May). The trio played Sting’s swingin’ “Consider Me Gone,” rounded out with students on horns and percussion, before the topic turned to the state of music. Sting acknowleding that while the art and craft of music is thriving via artists new and old, music itself has become as prolific and disposable as coffee. He also lamented artists not getting proper compensation due to poor residuals from streaming. Still, he summed up, “The act of playing music is it’s own reward.”

Songwriting was again addressed, with Sting stressing the importance of metaphor to express what one wants to say in a song lyric. It paved the way for a finale featuring two of his best-known compositions, “Every Breath You Take” and “Fragile”—both featuring student vocal and instrumental contributions. That marked a rousing conclusion to a truly inspiring evening; one full of music, wisdom, youth, and fun. The bass universe was smiling. –BM

photo: Neil Grabowsky

More on the event:

In front of an intimate audience of 200 guests, Sting and McBride, good friends and frequent collaborators, performed some of the 17-time Grammy Award winner’s most celebrated songs from his illustrious career as a solo artist and frontman for The Police, including “Roxanne,” “Moon Over Bourbon Street,” “Walking On the Moon,” “Message in a Bottle” and “Every Breath You Take.” The JAZZ HOUSE Soulful Voices Choir, made up of talented students from the organization’s Montclair and New York City programs, opened the show with moving renditions of “Fields of Gold” and “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” McBride and Sting invited the choir and instrumental students back on stage to perform with them for the finale, “Fragile.”

Sting’s support of the JAZZ HOUSE underscores his long-standing commitment to music education while many of the evening attendees made additional gifts to further the organization’s mission, preserving and advancing the cultural institution called jazz. Funds raised from this one-night-only event enable the JAZZ HOUSE to conduct life-changing programs that level the playing field, help close the achievement gap and boost graduation rates through its robust year-round classes and programs, private lessons, music education in schools, and getting instruments into the hands of young artists.

“I’d like to offer my appreciation for the important work you are doing, a gift to our community and also the entire world, the gift of music,” Sting said of JAZZ HOUSE KiDS at the event. “They say that music education is usually the first thing that is cut when there are cuts. It’s not some frivolous extra, it’s so important for kids to play music.”

photo: Richard Conde

Each year, Ralph Pucci transforms the 30,000 square-foot New York art and design gallery into a jazz club, and eight-time GRAMMY-winner and JAZZ HOUSE Artistic Director Christian McBride invites a special guest to perform and converse with him for a truly unique and intimate musical evening.  Sting is the latest icon to have performed at the annual event, now in its 8th year, with past artists including Norah Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, Laurie Anderson, Gregory Porter, John Pizzarelli and Esperanza Spalding.

The event raised close to $800,000 on the night, helping Ralph Pucci to raise almost $2 million to date since the events began for JAZZ HOUSE KiDS, the nationally acclaimed nonprofit that uses the power and legacy of jazz to give young people an artistic edge, providing access to world-class education and performances.

McBride and Sting share a deep mutual respect for each other’s musicianship and have enjoyed working together frequently over the years, including on Sting’s albums All This Time and Sacred Love, McBride’s album Conversations with Christian, and for a number of live performances.

 “I’m so glad Sting was able to join us for this year’s annual RALPH PUCCI Jazz Set to benefit JAZZ HOUSE KiDS,” says McBride. “He is a dear friend of mine and someone full of knowledge and wisdom.  I am sure I speak for Sting when I say how music has defined and transformed our lives, beyond our wildest dreams. I personally know the power it has in the lives of young people, especially those who might not otherwise have access to such enriching experiences that many take for granted.”

Ralph Pucci says, “I have loved jazz since I was a child and I always wanted our clients to experience art in all its forms at our galleries, and music is an important part of that vision. Sting is a musical legend and we were excited to welcome him to the gallery. I believe JAZZ HOUSE KiDS is a brilliant and important organization and I’m pleased to help raise funds to nurture jazz for the next generation.”

 In addition to RALPH PUCCI as event host, major event sponsors included Trinity Church Wall Street, Jazz Cruises, JPMorgan Chase and Rita and Terry Woodard; and J.T. Magen & Company, Inc.  Piano was provided by Steinway & Sons, Inc.

About Sting

Composer, singer-songwriter, actor, author, and activist Sting was born in Newcastle, England before moving to London in 1977 to form The Police with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. The band released five studio albums, earned six GRAMMY Awards® and two Brits, and was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

One of the world’s most distinctive solo artists, Sting has received an additional 11 GRAMMY Awards®, two Brits, a Golden Globe, an Emmy, four Oscar nominations, a TONY nomination, Billboard Magazine’s Century Award, and MusiCares 2004 Person of the Year. In 2003, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for his myriad of contributions to music. Also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he has received the Kennedy Center Honors, The American Music Award of Merit and The Polar Music Prize. Sting has received Honorary Doctorates of Music by the University of Northumbria (1992), Berklee College of Music (1994), University of Newcastle upon Tyne (2006) and Brown University at its 250th Commencement ceremony (2018).

Throughout his illustrious career, Sting has sold 100 million albums from his combined work with The Police and as a solo artist.

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About Christian McBride 

Christian McBride is an eight-time GRAMMY®-winning bassist, composer, and bandleader. He is the Artistic Director of the historic Newport Jazz Festival, the New Jersey Performing Art Center’s TD James Moody Festival, and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. McBride is also a respected educator and advocate for youth, and serves as Artistic Director of JAZZ HOUSE KiDS and the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Summer Sessions. In addition to artistic directing and consistent touring with his ensembles, he hosts NPR’s “Jazz Night in America” and “The Lowdown: Conversations With Christian” on SiriusXM. Whether behind the bass or away from it, Christian McBride is always part of the music. From jazz to R&B, and pop/rock and hip-hop/neo-soul to classical, he is a luminary with one hand ever reaching for new heights, and the other extended in fellowship—and perhaps the hint of a challenge—inviting us to join him.


RALPH PUCCI International is a luxury furniture and lighting company headquartered in New York City. The family business began with Nick and Lee Pucci in 1954 repairing mannequins in their Mount Vernon, NY basement, then urged by their son Ralph in 1976 to fabricate unique mannequins, which went onto great acclaim. While maintaining its sculpting and manufacturing capabilities in the heart of Manhattan, RALPH PUCCI International has grown to a gallery regarded as one of the best in the world, with outposts now in Los Angeles, Miami.

The furniture chapter began in 1989 because of a mannequin created by French interior designer Andrée Putman, who then urged Pucci to represent her furniture in the US. Today, RALPH PUCCI International collaborates with the world’s leading artists and designers, and is particularly drawn to pieces that highlight “the hand of the artist.” For Pucci, great design is an ongoing quest to celebrate the legends while also looking to the future and supporting emerging talent, which has led to frequent collaborations with students from Pratt Institute, RISD and JAZZ HOUSE KiDS.

 Now in its third generation, with siblings Michael and Nicole Pucci steering RALPH PUCCI International towards its seventh decade, the company continues to pioneer both in-house collections, pivoting the manufacturing skills of the mannequin craftsmen into new designs still made in the Manhattan headquarters on 18th Street. These include both creations with our long-term designer portfolio including Elizabeth Garouste, John Koga, Patrick Naggar, Eric Schmitt and Paul Mathieu, as well as the Ralph Pucci Collection. While remaining committed to the excellence and artistry of noble materials made in European and American ateliers, RALPH PUCCI believes in always looking for what’s next.

Now in its third decade, JAZZ HOUSE KiDS transforms lives using the power and legacy of jazz through world-class education and performances that create avenues of access, learning, career development and community building. The organization and students have received more than 150 awards and honors for excellence in jazz and jazz education. Every day of the week through a series of in-school programs in New Jersey and out-of-school programs in Montclair and New York City, JAZZ HOUSE helps young people gain an artistic edge, fostering community leaders and global citizens who help us build thriving communities. JAZZ HOUSE produces 150+ free public concerts per year to audiences close to 150,000, including the organization’s far-reaching cultural signature program, the award-winning MONTCLAIR JAZZ FESTIVAL, the largest free jazz festival in the NYC area, attracting 25,000+ attendees to downtown Montclair each year.


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Chris Jisi   By: Chris Jisi