The beginning of the year is usually a quiet period for music releases. Coming on the heels of the frantic holiday shopping season and the various “best of (prior) year lists” that assist in yuletide purchasing decisions, you’d think there wouldn’t be anything worthwhile coming out between mid-December and, say, March. But one of my favorite jazz labels, Posi-Tone Records, defies those expectations. Last year, Orrin Evans’ superb Faith In Action hit the stores on Groundhog Day and it turned out to be one of the best Modern and Mainstream jazz records of the year. This time, Posi-Tone produces yet another early-year impressive CD on only this fourth day of January, called Chronos.
DiRubbo calls to mind another saxophonist Jimmy Greene, who like DiRubbo is a Gen X-er who grew up in Connecticut and got to study jazz saxophone under one of the all-time great sax players Jackie McLean. Both have mastered multiple kinds of saxes, though DiRubbo’s preference seems to be the alto sax. DiRubbo’s Connecticut connection also led him to a long association with noted trombonist Steve Davis and to this day remains a fixture on the front line of Davis-led bands and participating in Davis recording sessions. DiRubbo himself have led dates going back to the mid 90s, and Chronos marks his six release overall and second one for Posi-Tone.
Though DiRubbo has never really ventured outside the realm of neo-bop on his records, he does it very, very well, and if you like Jackie McLean’s approach to jazz, you’ll certainly enjoy DiRubbo, too. However, DiRubbo has shown that he’s not averse to trying out new instrumentations: last year’s Repercussion found him swapping out the pianist and trumpet player in a traditional jazz quintet for a vibes player in Steve Nelson. Chronos, on the other hand, is his first foray into organ jazz, employing B-3 player Brian Charette and drummer Rudy Royston in a lean, mean organ trio.
Charette is a very cool-toned organ player who prefers to swing than sizzle. That makes the perfect complement to DiRubbo’s style, who also possess an innate sense of swing, but also likes to sizzle on his solos. Charette’s soothing organ balances things out nicely. The nine tunes on Chronos were all written either by DiRubbo or Charette, and are all fine specimens of the post bop form. DiRubbo’s “Minor Progress” kicks it off right with a finger snapping, explosive tune where the sax player climbs the scales with passion and assurance. Royston ably shuffles through a variety of rhythms without ever losing the beat on “Chronos,” a track where DiRubbo swings authoritatively and Charette solos with a good rhythmic awareness. DiRubbo briefly goes all out wailing on “Rituals” in a fiery, urgent saxophone showcase that would surely make his old mentor McLean proud. Even where the atmosphere is tone downed as in the closer “More Physical,” DiRubbo invests a lot into shaping sax lines that are meaningful and soulful.
Mike DiRubbo takes on the organ trio format with Chronos without changing the character of his playing. The hot but controlled blowing by DiRubbo combined with the cool organ sounds of Brian Charette and the forceful drumming by Rudy Royston makes lively straight ahead jazz that sounds just right.