Combining an extensive knowledge of the jazz tradition and a highly individualistic approach to performance, Mike DiRubbo has taken his place in the elite of New York City’s straight-ahead jazz musicians. His alto saxophone style reflects the influence of two of the giants of the instrument, Charlie Parker and Jackie McLean (DiRubbo’s former teacher and mentor), along with an attraction to the sound of tenor saxophonists like Dexter Gordon and John Coltrane.
A native of New Haven, Connecticut, DiRubbo was born on July 25th 1970. He began clarinet studies at age nine, and took up the alto a few years later. While attending Notre Dame High School, his interest in jazz was spurred by an opportunity to play with the Mitchell-Ruff duo during a concert at Woolsey Hall in New Haven.
After receiving a scholarship to the prestigious Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz of the Hartt School, University of Hartford, DiRubbo studied under McLean, combining his penchant for learning by ear with formal training in African-American music. Throughout the Hartt years he frequently led groups in local clubs, appeared in the company of visiting New York musicians like trumpeter Eddie Henderson, and played bread and butter jobs in Latin bands. A short time after graduation, DiRubbo began a fruitful, long-term association with another Hartt alumnus, Steve Davis. In addition to regular gigs in the trombonist’s bands, he played on Davis’ first disc, The Jaunt (Criss Cross), and they formed an impressive alto/trombone front line on DiRubbo’s inaugural date as a leader, From The Inside Out, released in 1999 for the Sharp Nine imprint.
A call from drummer Joe Farnsworth led to frequent work at Augie’s, a New York watering hole that served as an incubator of promising young talent. In this hothouse atmosphere DiRubbo learned to hold his own in the company of emerging stars, such as tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, trumpeter Jim Rotondi, and guitarist Peter Bernstein plus veterans like pianist Harold Mabern and baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne. A few years later he moved to Brooklyn, New York, and became a member of pianist Michael Weiss’ highly regarded sextet. Now a resident of the Bronx, he can be found in the front lines of Steve Davis’ Quintet, David Hazeltine’s Quartet, Jim Rotondi’s Quintet, “Killer” Ray Appleton’s Sextet, and with the group, “One For All”. DiRubbo has performed throughout the United States, Europe, and in Israel and his quartet regularly appears in various New York City clubs and jazz festivals. In addition, DiRubbo has recorded as a sideman for the Criss Cross, Fresh Sounds, Knitting Factory, Double Time, and Inner Circle Music labels.
Continuing the circle of knowledge, DiRubbo has been teaching privately for the past 17 years and has been a resident artist at the Litchfield Jazz Camp since it’s inauguration in 1997. Most recently he has been a guest instructor at SUNY Purchase, at William Patterson University’s jazz program, at the Jackie McLean Institute and is a saxophone tutor at the New School in NYC.
From this varied activity, DiRubbo has evolved into a significant soloist, composer, and bandleader. Evidence of this progress is abundant on his two recordings for Criss Cross as a leader, Keep Steppin’, and Human Spirit. DiRubbo’s latest CD, "New York Accent", on the Cellar Live label, has received much critical acclaim and was in the top 50 of the Jazz Week chart for 10 weeks. Russ Musto of All About Jazz NY writes, “On this live date, leading a quartet - with an incendiary rhythm section of veteran pianist Harold Mabern and the indomitable bass and drum team of Dwayne Burno and Tony Reedus - through a swinging set at The Kitano, the altoist proves that he has few peers on his instrument in this idiom.”
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