Posi-Tone Records is carving out a nice niche for itself by developing a fine catalog of mainstream jazz by up and coming musicians. Mike DiRubbo is an alto saxophonist with a nice dark and burnished tone that is framed well on this album by Brian Charette on organ and Rudy Royston on drums. This is not your average bluesy organ and saxophone date, although the music does come up through the tradition and is very accessible. Particularly interesting is the storming “Rituals” where the music builds to a feverish pitch with the leader over-blowing like Kenny Garrett or Jackie McLean at their most intense in a very impressive performance. But straight-ahead jazz is the order of the day with songs like “Eight for Elvin” and the enjoyable set ending bossa nova Viva O Rio De Janeiro, which finds the group grooving along in a sultry manner and suggests new vistas waiting to be explored on future dates. This was a solid and well done mainstream jazz date, of particular interest to organ/sax devotees, but amenable to all who enjoy subtle well played music.
It’s funny, I don’t own a single Mike DiRubbo album, which now sounds like a crime. But I actually own almost ever album his performed on as a sideman. Weird. I checked before I started writing this entry and its true!
DiRubbo is one of those rare breeds in the new crop of straight-ahead musicians. His style is very reminiscent of his influences, Coltrane, Parker and his mentor/teacher Jackie McLean. But he has developed his own vision and approach which has made him an in-demand sideman since his debut in 1999. He has worked with a plethora of his contemporaries and legends including Steve Davis, Eric Alexander, Peter Washington, Harold Mabern, Bruce Barth and of course Jackie McLean.
DiRubbo’s latest, Chronos (PosiTone) is a sheer delight. It is a change in direction compared to the rest of his catalog. Mainly in set up. This outing is a trio lineup with the stellar Rudy Royston on drums and Brian Charette on organ.
Organ sessions can be a tricky affair. The organ while emotional and funky can sometimes overwhelm the session. On Chronos it is a major compliment. This sounds like a group that has been together for years. Chronos is a face paced session with tracks like “Rituals” and “Minor Progress” moving with rich vibrant tones but also keep the listener engrossed with the individual activities of each performer.
Charette’s playing is really outstanding. On “Nouveau” the trio are in complete ballad mode. It helps temper the more upbeat rhythm of the opening tracks and displays the diversity of DiRubbo’s talent. “Eight For Elvin” is DiRubbo’s tribute to legendary John Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones. It’s a moment where history meets influence and works perfectly. Royston is fantastic and infectious. Charette seems calm and relaxed. And DiRubbo intermingles with the two superbly and romantically.
It would have been interesting to hear Coltrane mixing it up with Jimmy Smith or John Patton. Maybe the closet comparison would be Jimmy Smith’s work with Lou Donaldson or the emotional work Jackie Mac did with Mal Waldron (piano).
Chronos is definitely a side step for DiRubbo but its a beautiful side step that I think every jazz fan will dig. It’s emotional. It’s funky. It’s crafty. And most of all it’s got a vision and pace that is worth repeated listens. I really think you’re all going to dig it.
Mike DiRubbo – Chronos – Posi-TonePR 8072, 50:24 ****:
(Mike DiRubbo, saxophones; Brian Charette, B-3; Rudy Royston, drums)
When we last visited with saxophonist, Mike DiRubbo, in August 2009, reviewing Repercussion, we advised that it was a smart move on the part of Posi-Tone to sign Mike to their roster, as he is a saxophone (largely alto) man for all seasons. He has the winning combination of being a lyrical player, yet can also skirt the edge of more outside playing, but never failing to keep the swing quotient high. I have followed his career as he moved between the Criss Cross and Sharp Nine labels. His tone, to me, has shades of the best of Jackie McLean.
Chronos is a saxophone, organ, and drum trio issue, which always peaks my interest. DiRubbo and organist Charette share the song writing duties here and the acoustics with producer, Marc Free, and engineer, Nick O’Toole continue the Posi-Tone tradition of having superior sound, both well mixed and clear as a bell.
“Minor Progress” opens with Mike blowing in a boppish vein with Brian Charette providing organ fills and Rudy Royston propelling the groove. DiRubbo’s talent in playing the upper register of the alto with speed yet fully in control and locked into a groove continues. Charette is a new name to me and he is another organist to keep an eye on. Royston has a great drum solo mid song.
The title track sets a spacey opening before Mike begins a bluesy run. Charette’s comping brings to mind a merging of a Larry Young with Charles Earland on this track – definitely stirring the pot. “Lilt” is an appropriate title for a gentle track that cools down the previous heat and Mike sounds relaxed but gently swinging.
“Rituals” gives Mike the chance to play over a riff that Charette sets and it works nicely. “Nouveau” is a ballad where Mike blows sweetly, a romantic mood is set. “Lucky 13” is a stone groover in the best sax/organ tradition.
“Excellent Taste” is shown by Charette’s tune-this is comfort food for fans of the idiom that Lou Donaldson set with so many Hammond B-3 players in the 60s. So is “Eight for Elvin” which seems to be written as a tribute to Elvin Jones – but who knows. What I do know is that Charette digs in for many choruses of kick-ass organ grooving. DiRubbo ends Chronos with “More Physical.” It has a bit of an Island flavor before heading out onto uncharted waters.
Posi-Tone has hit pay dirt with Mike DiRubbo again. Last time they featured Mike with vibist Steve Nelson and that was also a winning combination. I bet they will keep us guessing which instrument adds to his next CD to keep our interest peaked. I can hardly wait….
Chronos – Mike DiRubbo (Posi-Tone Records) – DiRubbo, a native of New Haven CT and graduate of the Jackie McLean Institute at the Hartt School/University of Hartford, is an alto saxophonist who understands “the burn”, the ability to take the music up a notch when called for. Throughout “Chronos”, his 6th CD as a leader, he finds ways to take this organ trio into overdrive without descending into chaos. “Rituals” features several “hot” solos but it is the saxophonist’s drive to the finish line that really excites the senses. Part of the credit goes to drummer Rudy Royston (Bill Frisell, Ron Miles) who, when called for, really drives the music. Organist Brian Charette (Lou Donaldson, Cyndi Lauper) is the perfect foil for DiRubbo, his active feet providing bass lines that “swing” and “pulsate” while his coloring beneath the solos is always “right.” His solos are concise and quite musical. He contributes 2 of the 9 original pieces including the pretty ballad “Excellent Taste” and “More Physical”, the lilting yet up-tempo piece that closes the program with varying waves of intensity. The give-and-take of the sax and organ, along with Royston’s subtle then active percussion, has a powerful feel. The leader’s solos seem to leap out of the speakers, with an intensity, at times, that borders on ferocious. He, also, utilizes overdubbing on the title track, a smart arrangement of the sound.
Mike DiRubbo may not forge new ground with “Chronos” but makes the organ trio format sound fresh and vital. By making Charette and Royston equal partners in the creative process, the music is alive with possibilities. For more information, go to www.mikedirubbo.com.
Here’s the opening track to whet your appetite (courtery of Posi-Tone Records and IODA Promonet):
Piano has always been part of the package on saxophonist Mike DiRubbo’s albums. Still, when DiRubbo made his Posi-Tone debut with Repercussion in 2009, he left the piano behind, relying instead on some harmonic underpinnings from vibraphonist Steve Nelson. Now, on his follow-up disc for the label, he moves into different piano-less territory with his first organ trio record.
DiRubbo digs in on these nine original tracks, which shy away from organ group stereotypes. DiRubbo penned two-thirds of this material, with organist Brian Charette providing the other three tracks, and the majority of the songs lean heavily on their rhythmic foundations. The album opener, “Minor Progress,” contains all sorts of stop time breaks and unison hits from the rhythm duo, while DiRubbo works his craft on top. Charette’s organ works against the beat in certain places, obscuring the time a bit, but the up-tempo swing eventually takes over. Two Mike DiRubbo’s, through the magic of overdubbing, work together at the outset of the title track, and this piece deals with tension and release, as the rhythm section moves in and out of a swing groove.
DiRubbo’s agile mind and audacious ideas come to the fore on “Ritual,” an odd-metered funk tune in seven (with 6+8 subdivisions) that’s built off looping licks and grooves from Charette and drummer Rudy Royston. While the mid-album “Nouveau” and “Lucky 13” are the least memorable performances here, the last three tracks are all winners: Charette’s “Excellent Taste” lives up to its name and features some gorgeous saxophone work from DiRubbo, while “Eight For Elvin”—whether earning its name from its placement in the running order or from the eight-bar, polyrhythmic, Elvin Jones-like drum solo sandwiched in the middle of the head—never disappoints. Despite the fact that DiRubbo doesn’t wield a tenor saxophone, the drum-saxophone dialog on this one seems to be a clear nod toward the John Coltrane-Elvin Jones connection. Charette’s album closer, “More Physical,” is playful at first. A slight tropical tinge, light and frothy sounds and looping ideas that establish the 7/4 groove are all in play, but things eventually turn physical when Royston starts bashing away toward the back end of the track.
Chronos—viewed as the personification of time in Greek Mythology—is an apt reference point for this rhythmically vital set of music from saxophone scion Mike DiRubbo.
Connecticut native Mike DiRubbo has made a name for himself as a featured saxophonist in New York-based groups led by trombonist Steve Davis, pianist David Hazeltine and many others. His sixth release as a leader, Chronos (Posi-Tone), is a hard-blowing, straight-ahead affair with organist Brian Charette and drummer Rudy Royston. The disc features nine original compositions by DiRubbo and Charette, ranging from up-tempo burners and bouncy waltzes, to modal workouts and Latin-inspired grooves.
Primarily an alto player, DiRubbo conveys a soulful edginess with a sound reminiscent of the late Jackie McLean, the legendary saxophonist with whom he studied under at the University of Hartford. An uncompromising bebop influence can be heard in DiRubbo’s soloing, especially on swinging numbers such as “Minor Adjustment” and “Lucky.” The dark funk of “Rituals” and swinging intensity of “Eight For Elvin”—presumably a tribute to drum legend Elvin Jones—gives way to explosive vamp sections with DiRubbo going for broke alongside Royston’s fiery drumming.
Charette provides solid support and contributes strong solos throughout the disc. The organist’s manipulation of the drawbars recalls the vibrato-laden greasiness of Don Patterson, especially on his odd-metered piece “More Physical,” with DiRubbo on soprano saxophone.
It’s refreshing to hear a group of first-rate players who know how to swing and aren’t the least bit bashful about letting a listener know it.
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.