Christopher McBride, Ramon Review
by Icrom Bigrad
Harlem-based saxophonist Christopher McBride is a versatile musician of many talents, ranging from education and composition to an electrifying performance persona. With his latest album, Ramon, McBride explores a wide set of tones, drawing from contemporary R&B, swing, and post-bop frameworks. Joining the saxophonist is a constant ensemble of JS Williams on trumpet, Jonathan Edward Thomas on piano, Noah Jackson on bass, and Cedric Easton on drums. Guest musicians are Morgan Burrs on guitar for track 6, Bobby Broom on guitar for track 3, J Hoard lending his vocals to track 5, Kenny Bentley playing the tuba on track 12, Corey A. Wallace on trombone, and Luke Carlos O’Reiley showcasing his skills on piano for track 13. Together with McBride’s leadership, they create an impressive ensemble of musicians presenting thirteen compositions.
“You Put A Smile On My Face” features guitarist Broom on guitar to augment the quintet to a sextet. McBride wrote the composition in inspiration to the people that have been supporting and listening to his music since his first record. McBride says, “I love to smile and have a great time, so I hope that energy is felt in the piece.” With a strong influence from Hard Bop’s soulful, bluesy, and gospel overall vibe. The melody is memorable and the ensemble rhythm section plays an important role of being integral to the melody too with its hits and written parts. McBride’s saxophone solo is focused on the melodic development of motifs his horn buzzes with emotional expression. Broom’s guitar solo is very active, but he still clearly outlines the changes. Jackson’s bass solo is driven by his warm percussive sound. A strong composition and performance by an ensemble the has a clear grasp and vision of hard bop with today’s jazz influence.
“Intimacy” combines the hard bop style with a strong R&B feel as the ensemble has a guest appearance by Morgan Burrs on guitar. The rhythm section provides a deep groove as McBride’s saxophone glides through the changes with a strong emphasis on groove. Burr’s guitar solo is soulful and firmly in the pocket. The composition is built on an infectious beat with emotional harmonies and catchy hooks of the melody. The ensemble brings the traditional Hard Bop instruments of saxophone, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums, alongside electric guitar and keyboards for creating a rich and varied sonic landscape. McBride offer a fresh, innovative take on jazz, bridging the gap between hard bop and R&B, appealing to a broad audience of listeners who appreciate both the technical sophistication of jazz and the emotional depth of R&B and Soul.
Ramon is an innovative and impactful album that effortlessly blends various genres while remaining rooted in the traditions of jazz. With its emotionally charged compositions and elegant performances, Christopher McBride’s Ramon offers a perspective on jazz that caters to fans of both technical sophistication and emotional depth.