Saxophonist Mike DiRubbo is one of those classic NYC saxophone greats who has enjoyed a prominent dual career as a bandleader and sideman (Al Foster, Harold Mabern, Cecil Payne, et al) while building an impressive nine album solo discography in his first two decades on the scene.
True to the title of his first collection post 2020, he emerges with fresh post-pandemic Inner Light, joining forces with longtime partners Brian Charnette (Hammond B-3), Andrew Renfroe (guitar) and Jongkuk Kim (drums) to forge a new, sonically fascinating and ultra freewheeling powerhouse quartet. Those associations pay off handsomely with the ensemble’s grand musical repartee on a 65-minute set full of a multitude of rhythmic foundations, colorful melodies, burning interactions and inventive improvisational solos galore.
DiRubbo and friends get off to punchy yet poetic start on the hard swinging, densely percussive “Jk in NYC,” strolling the town with confident and witty guitar-sax-B-3 conversations that build an impactful foundation for coming lyrical coolness (typified by playful romps like “The Muse”), fury (a scorching “The Moment Before Sunrise,” featuring Renfroe’s blistery magic) and sensual romantic flow (“Brand New”).
DiRubbo also includes some crafty thematic fun, throwing in some edgy social media inspired commentary via the slow simmering, bluesy hustle and bustle of “Scrollin’ and Trollin’”) and the sweet, sultry ballad “Love the Same,” the emotional centerpiece of the set which artfully and passionately celebrates disability inclusion, love and support for differently-abled persons.