Mike DiRubbo: Repercussion (2009)
The immediate appeal of alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo's Repercussion is the replacement of the piano by the vibraphone as the rhythm section's harmony instrument. Guitar-based and piano-less rhythm sections have made their way into the mainstream, leaving the vibraphone-based rhythm section still a novelty.
DiRubbo is certainly not the first to employ such a format. Trombonist Grachan Moncur III's Evolution (Blue Note, 1963) had Bobby Hutcherson on vibes with no piano and saxophonist Wayne Escoffery's Veneration: Live at Smoke (Savant Records, 2007) used Joe Locke to splendid effect. Drummer Ralph Peterson's Fo'Tet Augmented (Criss Cross, 2004) pits clarinetist Don Byron against vibraphonist Bryan Carrott.
The vibraphone provides more wide open space when used in place of a piano, charging the remaining instruments the responsibility of carrying additional creative water. In this way it is perfect as a harmony instrument or for soloing.
But enough about vibes, they are not leading the date. DiRubbo is an alto saxophonist and a darn good one at that. A student of the late Jackie McLean, his tone is full-choked like Dexter Gordon and King Curtis's tenor saxophones.
DiRubbo illustrates these characteristics on the opening original minor blues, "Repercussion." Nelson lays down a skeleton riff that this picked up by bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Tony Reedus (who passed away shortly after this recording). Nelson's tone is sharp and close, like that of a marimba, and DiRubbo soars in an understated way through his serpentine head and solo.
Dave Brubeck's "The Duke" is one of the two standards on the disc. It is presented coolly, not veering far from the song that enchanted Miles Davis' Miles Ahead (Columbia, 1957) sessions. DiRubbo keeps his groove going through the remainder of the disc, providing a fully satisfying jazz offering.
Track Listing: Repercussion; The Duke; Lunar; Highbridge Lullaby; Nightfall; Deja Vu; Too Late Now; Nelsonian; Pisces Rising.
Personnel: Mike DiRubbo: alto saxophone; Steve Nelson: vibraphone; Dwayne Burno: bass; Tony Reedus: drums.