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Four years after the release of SuperBass (CD-83393), Telarc's groundbreaking live jam featuring veteran jazz bassist Ray Brown with colleagues John Clayton and Christian McBride, the three bassmasters reconvene in the equally innovative live summit, SuperBass 2 (CD-83483).
"People don't realize how much music you can get out of three basses," says Brown. "Each bassist is an extension of his own personalitytraits coming through their prismatic temperament, nuances, and rhythmic attitudepeppered with deep passion and wit."
Recorded in front of an exuberant crowd at the prestigious Blue Note in New York City in December 2000, SuperBass 2 chronicles the last stop in a 12-night cross-country odyssey that started in Seattle and ended in the Big Apple. By the time tape was rolling, Brown, Clayton and McBride had evolved into an organic unithighly improvisational yet seamlessly cohesive at the same time.
All three artists together bring almost a century's worth of combined experience to the table. Brown, a member of the Telarc roster since 1989, made his earliest musical mark in New York in the 1940s, alongside heavyweights like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Bud Powelland later with Oscar Peterson in the '50s and '60s. Clayton, a protege of Brown, developed his chops with the Count Basie Orchestra in the '70s and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra in the '80s (with his brother, saxophonist Jeff Clayton, and drummer Jeff Hamilton). McBride, who also borrows from Brown's palette, is one of the hottest young jazz bassists of the past decade, with extensive session work and some ambitious solo recordings on his resume at the tender age of 29.
Together they weave a rich, multi-stylistic tapestry on SuperBass 2. The twelve tracks include several familiar touchstones, like a lengthy, improvisatory take on Thelonius Monk's bluesy "Mysterioso," and a churning rendition of "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" that recaptures every ounce of the Temptations' original funk and groove. The trio gives a tip of the hat to the Gershwins with stylish renditions of "Summertime" and "I Loves You, Porgy," and a similar nod to Rodgers and Hart with a stirring reading of "My Funny Valentine."
Despite the differences in generations, the camaraderie on every track of SuperBass 2 is impossible to ignorenot just in the music but in the playful banter between musicians, and between the musicians and their audience. Despite their own successes, the two "youngsters" still look to Brown as a mentor and a pivotal jazz force. Clayton regards him as "one of the few bassists of his generation who has gotten progressively better by leaps and bounds," while McBride calls him "a man of great depth and wisdom." But working with star pupils like these has enabled the teacher to continue learning and growing. "It's great to have guys like John and Christian around to keep my juices flowing and to keep me on my toes," says Brown. "I've led them down a path for years...they're taking over now. They've blossomed as major league players."