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Bringin' It

One of the best-known and busiest bass players in jazz, Christian McBride is still just 45. A major performer by the age of 17 in 1989 when he joined Bobby Watson's group, McBride has worked with nearly everyone in the jazz since the early 1990s, from Freddie Hubbard and Milt Jackson to Joshua Redman and Chick Corea. He has led his own groups during the past 22 years in addition to appearing as a sideman with performers he believes in and being part of all-star bands. In 2011, McBride surprised many by putting together the Christian McBride Big Band, recording The Good Feeling. Bringin' It is the ensemble's second CD.

For this project, McBride wrote eight of the 10 arrangements and contributed three original compositions. His 17- piece big band (comprised of four trumpets, four trombones, five saxophonists, piano, bass and drums with guitarist Rodney Jones guesting on two numbers) is conventional yet modern, both swinging and fresh.

The set begins with McBride's "Getting' To It," a song with the feel of mid-1960s funk jazz a la Nat Adderley's "Jive Samba." Freddie Hendrix contributes a colorful solo and is in excellent form on a fine reworking of Freddie Hubbard's "Thermo" which also features tenor-saxophonist Ron Blake. "Youthful Bliss" has some fluent soprano by Steve Wilson and a surprisingly whimsical section. A rather thoughtful and somewhat downbeat version of "I Thought About You" showcases trumpeter Brandon Lee.

One of the most imaginative McBride arrangements of the project is his big band's version of McCoy Tyner's "Sahara." It starts out with two minutes of atmospheric free jazz with Todd Bashore's flute and drummer Quincy Phillips in the spotlight before becoming a travel through the Egyptian desert.

Melissa Walker's sings the Brazilian-flavored "Upside Down" and "Mr. Bojangles." The latter, with its drum breaks, is a tribute to the tap-dancing skills of both Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Sammy Davis Jr. "Full House" features Rodney Jones in a Wes Montgomery vein and "Used 'Ta Could" is a good-time number complete with handclapping and some spirited trombone playing by Michael Dease.

Christian McBride, whose bowing on "The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning" is exquisite, has several solos along the way although he does not dominate the music. He is clearly happy to be driving the ensembles (as he does on the closing "Optimism") and adds a great deal of joy to the music.

One can certainly understand why he enjoys this excellent band.

- Scott Yanow