The visceral style of drummer Rudy Royston was considerably toned down on his leader debut 303 (Greenleaf, 2014), a septet outing where the drummer often worked within the context of an ensemble player. Pared down to a trio formation for Rise Of Orion, Royston retains the services of the ubiquitous saxophonist Jon Irabagon and bassist Yasushi Nakamura from his original group. Without a chordal instrument, and in this more intimate setting, Royston is free to unleash his more forceful side.
Over the past two and a half decades Royston has earned the respect of the jazz community from his work with a host of upper echelon artists such as Bill Frisell, JD Allen and Ben Allison. He has also worked regularly with Dave Douglas, playing on the trumpeter's Greenleaf releases of Be Still (2012), Time Travel (2013), and Brazen Heart (2015). Some of Royston's finest work can be heard on Rudresh Mahanthappa's Charlie Parker inspired Bird Calls (ACT, 2015).
Eleven of the thirteen pieces on Rise of Orion were penned by Royston but it's easy to imagine that Royston had Irabagon's knotty, aggressive approach in mind on a number of these compositions. Both saxophonist and drummer demonstrate a deft handling of free-wheeling complexity on the title track before the multi-layered "Nautical" allows Royston a revealing extended solo. Seventeenth-century composer Henry Purcell's "Dido's Lament" gets a searing, bluesy treatment showcasing Nakamura's expressive playing in the midst of profound performances from Royston and Irabagon.
Rise Of Orion is an excellent vehicle to showcase Royston's diverse set of skills. From the slower paced cover of Bill Withers' "Make a Smile for Me" to the frenetic closer, "Belt," the drummer exhibits his ability to exercise sophistication as a center, no matter the speed or complexity of the improvisations. A challenging release, this is nevertheless the album to best hear the virtuosity of a drummer that has been publically under-recognized in his career as a side man.
Rise Of Orion; Nautical; Alnitak; Sister Mother Clara; Man O To; Alnilam; Make A
Smile For Me; Kolbe War; River Styx; Dido's Lament; Mintaka; We Had It All; Belt.
Rudy Royston: Drums; Jon Irabagon: saxophones; Yasushi Nakamura: bass.