Ray Brown, John Clayton and Christian McBride
(Telarc – 2001)
by Phyllis A. Lodge
Place three superlative bass masters with a “century of history between them” amid a live New York Blue Note audience and you get pure, spiritual fireworks. The running commentary between Brown, Clayton and McBride revives the traditional nature of this art form. Herb Wong says: “Considering the formidable summit of Ray Brown, John Clayton and Christian McBride in one breath is nothing short of ‘wow’!…”. A living legend of Olympian stature, Ray Brown is one of the original creators of bebop.” Brown comments: “People don’t realize how much music you can get out of three bassists.”
There are no adjectives left to describe bassist Ray Brown. He is simply Ray Brown, as he explodes onto the scene with SuperBass Theme, cascading artfully into Get Happy. The music proceeds with the speed of light (even when they take it slow). They are smooth and masterful. You’re going to want to load up on the music of all three men, if you haven’t done so already.
Monk’s Mysterioso is one of my personal favorites in its layered dialog. Articulate fingering opens this classic up, and bowing echoes the theme. The music then oozes blues with the spirit of church quartet, complete with the musicians’ spirited commentary. Pure beauty and peace.
Alright, wake up! Papa Was a Rolling Stone hurtles in like a locomotive. The Temps were one of my favorite male groups, and this treatment buzzes with their charisma. And the bassists make the audience sing, too! There’s some string slappin’ by Ray Brown that would shake and wake the dead. “Get Ready!”
The men turn their attention to Gershwin to the third power. Summertime. It Ain’t Necessarily So. I Loves You Porgy. Christian McBride whips up a sprightly lead in Summertime that elicits from me an irrepressible shout. I Loves Your Porgy both moves and soothes the soul. It Ain’t Necessarily So mystically channels the deep Africanisms of John Bubbles and Sammy Davis, Jr.,in their respectively portrayals of Sportin’ Life. Our bassists chuckle at themselves without missing a beat while engaging in heart-warming verbal exchange as the audience claps along. There is an echo of “Work Song” near the end. Did you hear it? .
Ray Brown introduces some “monster” stuff beginning with McBride on Birks Works by our beloved Dizzy Gillespie. They then transition into My Funny Valentine before treating the audience to a wild and wonderful piece entitled Three by Four, both numbers featuring Clayton. Ya’ just have to hear these men work their music.
Taco with a Pork Chop follows, as it delivers that Latin love on a silver platter of smackin’ down home stuff. It is a loving marriage of sound that goes beyond just the music. And the chant is a delight.
The SuperBass Theme brings to a close this listening experience involving the parent of stringed instruments as expressed by three of the greatest musicians in the universe. Ray Brown, John Clayton and Christian McBride.
All that’s left for me to say is what my beloved Uncle Penny, a bassist/composer in his own right who worshpped Ray Brown used to say: “I’d rather listen to this music than eat!” I’d probably never eat again. (Okay, maybe a little). Need I say more? SuperBass 2. Enjoy.
[Featured Artists: Ray Brown, John Clayton and Christian McBride. Bass.]