It's not common for a bassist to serve as frontman in a jazz group.\nBut Christian McBride breaks that mold.\nThe accomplished jazz artist will play with his namesake band 7:30 tonight at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave. Tickets are $14 for general admission and $12 for students and seniors.\n"Usually, they're fronted by a horn man," said Louis Roncayolo, the Bloomington Area Arts Council associate director of performance programs. "But McBride has exceptional talent. He's always thinking beyond the bass, about the textures and rhythms of the ensemble. He's a very well-developed artist." \nSince he started his own band, the 28-year-old McBride has garnered an avalanche of acclaim. Time magazine declared him "the most promising and versatile bassist since Charles Mingus," who also fronted his own group. \n"He already sounds like no other bassist of his generation," wrote Howard Reich in a Chicago Tribune review. "His seemingly nonchalant virtuosity is counterbalanced by the deep maturity and self-assuredness of his playing."\nMcBride, who hails from Philadelphia, comes from a strong jazz background. His father, Lee Smith, played bass for Philly Soul legends the Delfonics, Blue Magic and Billy Paul. And his great uncle, Howard Cooper, also plucked away with many forerunners in the jazz avant garde, such as Khan Jamal and Byard Lancaster. \nMcBride studied classical bass at Philadelphia's famed High School for Creative and Performing Arts. At age 15, he met Wynton Marsalis at a workshop. The trumpeter was so impressed by the young talent that he asked him to play a gig a week later. \nMcBride ended up being accepted to the Juilliard School of Music in Manhattan on full scholarship.\nBut he found college too taxing, and quit after a year to pursue a career as a jazz musician. \nWith a solid reputation, his stock as a sideman quickly rose. He's been an accompanist on more than a 150 recordings in the past eight years.\nNot content with just setting the beat, McBride launched a solo career. To much critical acclaim, he's recorded four albums, the latest being this year's Sci-fi. Featuring reworkings of songs by Sting and Steely Dan as well as original cuts, McBride has taken more creative liberty with the last album, getting away from his classical training. "For lack of a better description, Sci-fi is my 'acoustic fusion' record -- certainly more acoustic than anything I've recorded as a leader in a while," he said. "After I wrote the song 'Science Fiction,' the performance turned out to be so great that I decided to revolve an album around it."\nBut McBride said it developed into a full-fledged concept album.\n"Sci-fi isn't so much about the title as it is about the record's sound concept," he said. "We played most of it on the road before we recorded it. I tweaked the arrangements several times in the process"