Mike DiRubbo's eight disc as a leader, Threshold finds the ever inventive alto saxophonist in a solidly hard bop environment that is reminiscent of Blue Note records of the 1950s but has a clear modern edge. In addition to leading a superb and sympathetic quintet, DiRubbo penned eight of the nine tracks on this riveting record with a momentum that never slacks from the first note to the last.
DiRubbo's acerbic, passionate tone marks his tight and intelligent improvisations that seamlessly arise from the intricate and memorable heads of each composition. His embellishments of the melody on the dynamic title piece are simultaneously raw and elegant while his haunting spontaneous lines on the contemplative "Salter Of The Earth" burn with intense poetry. His stimulating ad-lib flourishes add a cinematic mystique to the vivid "1970" while trumpeter Josh Evans' mellow, burnished horn takes an expansive and charismatic solo.
The modal and riveting "Sun Steps" opens with the unaccompanied clarion call of the frontline. As the music evolves DiRubbo and Evans weave elegiac motifs around the core theme. Bassist Ugonna Okegwo's inspired and lyrical string work makes for a satisfying conclusion.
Elsewhere Evans blows a Levantine influenced extemporization on the dark and dramatic "Pace," perhaps the most innovative tune of the album. Pianist Brian Charette's crisp overlapping sonic clusters with the right amount of angular dissonance put a deliciously shadowy spin on the fairy tale ambience.
Drummer Rudy Royston provides both rhythmic support and propels the bands' ensemble play and spirited exchanges. He versatility ranges from the subtle sophisticated brushwork on the undulating "Faith" to the complex and fiery beats on the Latin-esque "Curvas Perigosas." Together with Okegwo he creates taut but still swinging backdrops against which the others' free flowing phrases echo as, for instance, on the simmering and soulful "Where There's A Willis There's A Way."
Threshold is a tad more traditional than DiRubbo's previous releases, especially ones from the preceding five years. It is his and his sidemen's unparalleled musicianship and captivating creativity that makes this, nevertheless, a provocative and enjoyable work
Threshold; Where There's A Willis There's A Way; Sun Steps; Pace; Faith; Curvas Perigosas;
1970; Salter Of The Earth; Bloomdido.
Mike DiRubbo: alto saxophone; Josh Evans: trumpet; Brian Charette: piano; Ugonna Okegwo:
bass; Rudy Royston: drums.
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