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New York Accent by Mike DiRubbo

In one of those fateful instances of serendipity that lead to important life experiences, Cellar Live producer Cory Weeds visited The Jazz Record Center on his first trip to New York City from Vancouver. And who should he meet there but alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo, previously unknown to Weeds? As they became acquainted, Weeds realized that DiRubbo had recorded, and he was impressed with what he heard. The rest of the story led to the production and release of the CD being reviewed at this very moment: DiRubbo’s New York Accent, recorded live at The Kitano in February, 2006.

The title of DiRubbo’s recording is appropriate, for he does exert an ever-present attack on the notes, a characteristic he no doubt assimilated from his teacher and mentor Jackie McLean when DiRubbo studied with him at the Hartt School of Music in DiRubbo’s home state of Connecticut. Even when DiRubbo plays in a more relaxed mode, such as on "Prelude to a Kiss," the urgency remains as if DiRubbo, once a performance is kicked off, can’t contain his joy in the process of creating music. It comes through whenever he plays. In addition, the "accent" of the CD’s title implies a uniqueness of New York’s jazz vocabulary. DiRubbo borrows from and contributes to the jazz vernacular identified with New Yorkers’ that contains an overriding sense of urgency as if driven by a continual search.

As a member of trombonist Steve Davis’ group, DiRubbo helped establish that group’s sound, and DiRubbo has helped establish his own reputation as an eloquent saxophonist on his own recent albums, Keep Steppin’ and Human Spirit. But New York Accent is different. For one thing, it documents a live performance at The Kitano. For another, it includes a top-shelf rhythm section of Harold Mabern, Dwayne Burno and Tony Reedus to elevate DiRubbo’s high energy level.

New York Accent includes four of DiRubbo’s own compositions, proving his ability to write intriguing music as well as play standards like "Prelude to a Kiss." DiRubbo even includes in the set a reworking of Billy Joel’s "She’s Always a Woman" that certainly takes liberties with the song’s traditional feel. DiRubbo converted it into a charging three-four arrangement, freeing the musicians to improvise over the changes, which provide surprising opportunities for self-expression once they are freed from the melody. The performance had opened with an alto sax workout on DiRubbo’s "Clarity," his fierceness at attacking the material no doubt immediately grabbing the audience’s attention. DiRubbo’s study of the jazz masters who preceded him is evident on his version of the Ray Brown/Gil Fuller piece, "Ray’s Idea," played with fluidity and ease that glides into Mabern’s delightful solo. DiRubbo ends the engagement in unforgettable fashion with yet another aggressive piece, his "Better Days," as DiRubbo rises into altissimo and swirls the notes with unrelenting intensity as the group performed the propulsive, New York-accented music that comprised the evening’s music at The Kitano.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mike DiRubbo
  • CD Title: New York Accent
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2007
  • Record Label: Cellar Live
  • Tracks: Clarity, The Sage, New Year’s Dream, Ray’s Idea, Prelude to a Kiss, She’s Always a Woman, Better Days
  • Musicians: Mike DiRubbo (alto & soprano saxophone), Harold Mabern (piano), Dwayne Burno (bass), Tony Reedus (drums)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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