As a young man, Christian McBride hauled his double bass to New York City. He started school at Julliard, but by the time he was 19, he was recording with the likes of Wynton Marsalis and Joe Henderson. He's since played with Jazz icon McCoy Tyner and toured with Sting. For the series Musicians in their Own Words, Christian McBride describes how, even though his father was a musician, some of his earliest memories involve his mother and her closet full of 45s.

Mr. CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE (Bassist): I would just sit there with her and she would say, Yeah, I remember I used to see this group live at the Uptown. And I was like, what did they do mom? My mom would get up and start trying to recreate the dance steps, you know, like the Temptations and things like that. And then of course, my dad being a bass player, at the time my father was on the road with Mongo Santamaria. So I got to see my father play live with Mongo when I was maybe six or seven years old.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MCBRIDE: I always draw this parallel with playing bass as being an offensive lineman in football, because you almost never get to touch the ball. You almost never get the glory. You're kind of not noticed until you're not there. It's kind of the same thing with the bass.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MCBRIDE: When you talk about laying down a groove, I think that as a bass player, that's what you're paid to do.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MCBRIDE: When I play the acoustic bass, of course I would say this, but I think it's probably just the most beautiful sounding instrument--just something that low and that resonant. You see this huge instrument and this wood, this house on stage, you know. You feel it more than you hear it.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MCBRIDE: When it came time for me to record my first CD, Getting To It, I wanted to do something with some different bass players. So I'm wondering what would happen if I could put Ray Brown and Milt Hinton together. Not that long ago I was listening to some of the outtakes, and Ray Brown, he says, Now, listen Milt, when McBride is soloing and you start walking behind him, look, don't lighten on him now. I mean, step on him. Put your foot in his neck. (laughter) And that's what they did. They had no mercy on me whatsoever, and I loved every minute of it.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MCBRIDE: Jazz is about--we are taught to be creative every second, in any situation we're in. We're taught to let it flow, be creative, think of something new and fresh. And pop and rhythm and blues is the exact opposite. Sting is one of those musicians from a popular genre who has completely transcended what his genre is supposed to be. You know, there's pop; there's what they call adult contemporary, whatever that may be; and then there's like Sting music.

(Soundbite of music)

STING (Singing): And the harmony rings with the promise of spring--on a Brooklyn Street.

Mr. MCBRIDE: You know, Sting, my time in his band was really wonderful, because almost any time I had something going on outside of his band, he always was there. We were playing a place called the Pizza Express in London, and Sting came to the show to hear my band, and we played Walking on the Moon. I thought, boy, Sting is going to hear our version of one of his biggest hits. This is Russian Roulette.

(Soundbite of McBride's version of "Walking On The Moon")

Mr. MCBRIDE: After we finished the set, I sit down with Sting and I say, man, what you think of Walking on the Moon? And Sting, he paused for a second and he said, you know, you could have just put a new title on it and kept the royalties for yourself. If you didn't tell me that was Walking on the Moon I probably wouldn't have recognized it.

(Soundbite of McBride's version of "Walking On The Moon")

Mr. MCBRIDE: Above anything else, the most fun I have playing music is probably with my own band. The guys in the band, I think they appreciate that my M.O. is to tell them whatever musical ideas you have, no matter how disparate they may seem, bring them. If you like listening to cartoon music, I want you to play cartoon music. If that's what you're hearing, if that's what you're feeling, do that.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MCBRIDE: There's sometimes a feeling like how can you possibly build upon what's already been done. Nobody is ever going groove harder playing Straight Ahead than Ray Brown; no one is going to groove any funkier ever, than Bootsy Collins or Larry Graham. And you start thinking, man, what's left. But if I'm going to make some kind of contribution to the world of music, I have a feeling it's going to be rooted in the groove, underneath, the bottom.

MONTAGNE: Bassist, Christian McBride. We heard from him as part of a series Musicians in Their Words. You can hear music from his upcoming live release and his reflections on recording with legendary pianist McCoy Tyner at

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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