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From The Inside Out by Mike DiRubbo Quintet

From The Inside Out is the fantastic debut of alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo. This album was recorded in 1994 but wasn’t released until 1999. At the time of this recording DiRubbo had no recording contract offers, but decided to record a session on his own anyway. It took him five years to finally secure a deal for it with Sharp Nine Records, but upon listening to this CD I think you’ll agree that it was well worth the wait.

DiRubbo got his musical start at age nine, playing clarinet. When he was twelve he switched to saxophone, found jazz and eventually auditioned for the Hartt School of Music, where the school’s director (the great alto saxophonist Jackie McLean) offered him a scholarship, which he eagerly accepted. The fact that McLean proved to be a great influence is quite evident. DiRubbo’s tone is very similar to McLean’s - bright, forceful and edgy (but thankfully without replicating the tendency to play sharp, which was a trademark of McLean’s sound). I also hear quite of bit of Coltrane’s sound in DiRubbo’s playing. He exhibits that same haunting, that same urgency and yearning that made Coltrane so mesmerizing to listen to. This is especially apparent on the ballad "You’re A Weaver Of Dreams", a song that he says has been a favorite of his ever since he heard Coltrane’s version of it on the 1959 ‘Coltrane and Cannonball’ album. His solo on this tune is a respectful nod to Trane, never aping but simply paying tribute to one of the elders.

Joining him here is an all-star cast of monstrous talent - Steve Davis on trombone, Bruce Barth on piano, Nat Reeves on bass and Carl Allen on drums. These cats have played with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Art Farmer, Terence Blanchard and Chick Corea, to name but a few. The fact that this is the band that DiRubbo was able to put together for his first recording at the young age of 24 is a testament to his great talent and potential. Not only is he a superb saxophone player, but he’s a fantastic composer as well. Four of the nine tunes presented here ("From The Inside Out", "Role Reversal", "Blues To Your Country" and "For First") were penned by his hand. He writes from a strong melodic perspective and with logical - though sometimes pleasantly surprising - changes. He also covers a Sahib Shihab tune ("Rue de la Harpe"), a Dizzy Gillespie tune ("Bebop"), a Steve Davis original ("The Search Within") and the Arlen and Harburg classic "Over The Rainbow" (refreshingly played uptempo).

It’s obvious that even though this was his first recording, he felt very relaxed with this band. He’s not afraid to stretch out and take chances, pushing the edges with spirited, emotion-filled solos. The rest of the band, playing with an awe-inspiring tightness, offers him great support while occasionally taking the opportunity to add their own great solos to the mix. This is a highly recommended first record by a young man we hope to hear more of in the future.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mike DiRubbo Quintet
  • CD Title: From The Inside Out
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 1999
  • Record Label: Sharp Nine Records
  • Rating: Five Stars
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