MIKE DI RUBBO
Chronos is altoist Mike DiRubbo’s sixth date as a leader and the first to feature him within the bristling context of organ and drums. A student of Jackie McLean (among others) at the Hartt School of Music, DiRubbo has gone on to work with a number of luminaries of modern straight-ahead jazz, such as trumpeter Jim Rotondi, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist Harold Mabern and drummer Joe Farnsworth. He’s joined here by drummer Rudy Royston and organist Brian Charette; the leader and the organist contribute all of the disc’s nine compositions. The opening “Minor Progress” certainly sounds like an ode to McLean’s mid-60s recordings in its stop-time trills and chugging bursts; DiRubbo is a little cooler than his mentor, picking apart thematic nuggets and worrying them in passages that also nod ever so slightly to Marion Brown. “Cool” isn’t to say unemotional – it’s clear that he’s a player with a lot of heart and energy – but more that one can hear him thinking for the first part of his solo, until he puts the gas pedal down and soars over a mighty rhythm clip. Charette has, like Larry Young or John Patton, a pianistic approach to the organ that fits nicely with the tune’s incisive character, though his solo is a bit brief.The title track that follows has overdubbed altos at the outset, giving the introduction a bit of a Living Space vibe, Royston and Charette spinning an Elvin-Young whorl behind DiRubbo’s searchingly sharp eviscerations, which alternate with passages of soft, lyrical introspection. Charette has a bit more space here, carving out a jaunty groove with subtle surges and eddies as bass pedal and drums keep loping time before the leader takes it out. “Rituals” is a decidedly funkier piece, supported by agitated backbeat and a simple, driving chord progression as DiRubbo builds tart phrases and burbling cries in curious opposition to the tune’s initial feel and expected outcome. A somewhat psychedelic, gooey organ statement shifts the tune’s direction yet again, building upon simplicity into dense, anthemic closure. The set is well-balanced between these more uptempo tunes and caressing, urban-twilight ballads that, when in good hands like these, offer another side of the trio’s capabilities. DiRubbo’s approach on “Nouveau” is delicate and slightly bitter, his improvisation full of quiet flurries and athletic runs that are still within the character of the piece, while steering clear of an easily embodied saccharine approach. I’m still wishing for a hotter recording quality on these Posi-Tone discs and I think that Chronos would benefit from that, but all in all it’s an excellent neo-bop date that should be heard, especially if one is pondering a dearth of truly engaging modern jazz recordings.