Music Review: Bass duets by genre-defying virtuosos Christian McBride and Edgar Meyer swing, rumble

This image released by Mack Avenue Music Group shows "But Who’s Gonna Play The Melody?" by Christian McBride with Edgar Meyer. (Mack Avenue Music Group via AP)

Get ready to rumble. This album will work out your sound system.

Virtuosos Christian McBride and Edgar Meyer play double bass duets on their first joint album, “But Who’s Gonna Play the Melody?”

The answer to that question? Both.

McBride and Meyer swap the lead on their instrumental recordings, which include original tracks and cover songs. Despite the limitations that come with being a two-man bass band, McBride and Meyer explore all manners of music while defying genre divides.

The duo has the bona fides to make lemonade out of lemons. McBride is a jazz superstar fluent in R&B. Meyer’s remarkably diverse resume ranges from bluegrass to classical music. He's also an adjunct associate professor of bass at Vanderbilt University, where the album was recorded.

Together they draw on a multitude of genres, plucking, bowing and showing just how expressive their 20-pound instruments can be.

Listening to Meyer and McBride is a physical experience, especially with good speakers, and the sound waves they generate could dislodge a nightclub from its foundation.

But the album isn’t just about booming. Meyer and McBride make music that’s engaging even when the notes are too low to hum. The basses growl, snort, buzz and crack wise. They share the same rhythm, engage in conversation and explore divergent syncopation, while solos sing, swing and careen.

The mood is generally jolly, and even the typically melancholy “Days of Wine and Roses” moves at an oddly jaunty tempo. The duo’s approach works better on the other tunes.

“Bebop, of Course” gets jazzy, while “Canon” mixes the 17th century with the 21st. “Philly Slop” is an invitation to dance, and the stop-start “FRB 2DB” would tickle James Brown.

One section of the bouncy opener “Green Slime” sounds like a courtship involving a pair of semi tractor-trailers. “Yeah, baby,” McBride says when the tune ends, and he’s right to be satisfied.

McBride and Meyer also take turns at the keyboard for lyrical piano-bass duets, including a beguiling cover of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” with the melody an octave lower than usual.

Best of all is Bill Monroe ’s “Tennessee Blues.” Meyer and McBride make it a fiddle tune, sawing with a zeal that could topple timber. In short, they get down.


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