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January/February 2002

Ray Brown/John Clayton/Christian McBride
SuperBass 2
Telarc

The first Super Bass took place in 1996 and the enthusiasm of a long-overdue reunion is evident, not only by the musical and instrumental compatibility, but by the constant chatter and obvious love these bassists have for each other. If you have any doubt that a trio of basses-Brown, John Clayton, Christian McBride-can form a legitimate front line, lend an ear to the outstanding arrangements that constantly mix their functions: three-way harmony, or two playing while one slaps the side of the bass percussively as on "Get Happy;" two playing arco, with the third pizzicato, on an intriguing blues by Thelonious Monk, "Mysterioso"; an unforgettable medley of three tunes from Porgy and Bess in which Brown's arrangements vary the solo leads; Clayton's gut-wrenching, cellolike arco on "My Funny Valentine." It's all so classically correct.

Ah, but not every hair is in place. There are two vocals-"Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and "Taco With a Pork Chop"-replete with audience interaction and a bit of helpful percussion by George Fludas and Larry Fuller. Everyone has a ball without sacrificing one iota of virtuosity.

Originally published in January/February 2002
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