Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Mike DiRubbo Quartet At Smoke

David A. Orthmann By

Sign in to view read count
Mike DiRubbo Quartet
New York, NY
March 16, 2006

Alto and soprano saxophonist Mike DiRubbo returned recently to Smoke, an important Upper West Side venue that presents established and up-and-coming talent. A decade ago, Smoke (then named Augie's) was the place where the Hartt School of Music graduate began to stake his claim in New York City's fiercely competitive straight-ahead jazz scene.

Throughout the opening set, DiRubbo showed why he's earned a semi-regular gig as a leader at the club. His quartet included pianist Harold Mabern, the redoubtable seventy-year-old pianist who is venerated by generations of hard-blowing, tradition-minded players. A sign of the saxophonist's maturation is the ease in which he handles Mabern's lively, full-bodied accompaniment. DiRubbo's extended alto solo on John Coltrane's "Straight Street, the band's first selection, set the standard for everything that followed. Withstanding the pressure of Mabern's jabbing chords, he displayed a sharp, keening sound, and shunned extended climaxes in favor of placing brief peaks aside concise pauses. Mabern's turn encompassed a volatile yet tightly focused approach to swing. His persistent chords chomped against biting single note lines.

Henry Mancini's "Days of Wine and Roses was taken at a relaxed medium tempo. Drummer Tony Reedus began with brushes and switched to sticks in the middle of DiRubbo's solo. The alto saxophonist sprinkled soulful phrases throughout and maintained a narrative thread during lines of varying length. One high pitched, jagged remark was repeated and then evolved into something smoother. Supported by Paul Gill's sturdy walking bass line, Mabern's right hand swept the keyboard, and at times his playing assumed a fiercely swinging, march-like feeling. Reedus' eight-bar exchanges with the band displayed impressive sticking technique and imagination. One break featured convoluted, Elvin Jones-like trips around the drum set; another included the buzz of precise closed rolls; and a third spotlighted airy, melodic sounding taps to each of his cymbals.

Mabern was the engine stoking "Simone, Frank Foster's cyclical composition in ¾ time. His powerful, surging chords ignited the band during DiRubbo's statement of the melody. Taking the first solo, Mabern exhibited a superficial resemblance to McCoy Tyner. The left and right hands were at near war with one another, yet the blues was always present amidst the ostensible clamor. From dancing single note runs to thunderous chords, everything he played was pointed and direct. Mabern maintained this volatile stance during DiRubbo's solo, in which the leader's tart alto kept on building momentum yet stayed grounded and recognizable.

The standard "You've Changed began as a ballad, as DiRubbo rendered the melody in a lovely, low-keyed fashion. Mabern's chiming chords implied the double time that began at the start of the leader's solo. Still recognizably in the ballad mode, DiRubbo favored bebop expansions tempered by a blues based sensibility. A series of ascending phrases was cut short by a pregnant pause; and one four-note figure briefly stood out from everything else. Mabern manipulated textures and dynamics. In one instance he executed huge chords that suddenly became light as a feather.

The set ended with "Clarity, a DiRubbo composition somewhat reminiscent of Coltrane's "Giant Steps. There was little pause in the leader's solo as his penetrating phrases constantly drove forward. Reedus' four bar breaks were equally rousing, especially when he leapt from one drum to another with a five stroke figure.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory Live Reviews We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory
by Josef Woodard
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: December 16, 2017
Read We Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews We Jazz Festival 2017
by Anthony Shaw
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017 Live Reviews Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Jazztopad Festival 2017 Live Reviews Jazztopad Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below Live Reviews Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below
by Tyran Grillo
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Anat Cohen at Davidson College" Live Reviews Anat Cohen at Davidson College
by Perry Tannenbaum
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "FORQ at The World Cafe Live" Live Reviews FORQ at The World Cafe Live
by Mike Jacobs
Published: August 18, 2017
Read "Omar Sosa At SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Omar Sosa At SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: May 13, 2017
Read "Steve Winwood at the Space at Westbury" Live Reviews Steve Winwood at the Space at Westbury
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: May 6, 2017
Read "Mark Hagan's Jazz Salon At The Old 76 House" Live Reviews Mark Hagan's Jazz Salon At The Old 76 House
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 27, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!