By Ed Enright | Published December 2023
On his 10th album as a leader, New York alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo fronts a new quartet featuring organist Brian Charette, drummer Jongkuk Kim and guitarist Andrew Renfroe. They’ve got a definite thing going on from the get-go of Inner Light, an hourlong program of forward-looking music with roots that stretch back decades. And that thing — a collective sum of their personal and musical experiences and interconnections — allows them to achieve a group sound like no other. These guys really know how to work the accents and juxtapose the downbeats and upbeats of the nine DiRubbo compositions and two non-originals (John Coltrane’s “Straight Street” and the standard “Dearly Beloved”) they take on here. The quartet drops into high gear immediately with the opener “JK in NYC,” as DiRubbo’s bold alto emerges with its strong attack and sets the train in motion while Charette gives a Hammond master class that’s as dirty as it is churchy. The quartet covers an extensive amount of musical ground from there, gaining momentum and building intensity from track to track, setting up a long flow of tension-and-release that seems to propel itself. There’s nothing sentimental about this music; everything is played deliberately, with the kind of conviction that pulls the listener in, lays everything on the line and makes no apologies. It swells with confidence. Heavy on passionate blowing and teeming with knotty surprises, Inner Light will take you on a long, evocative journey where clarity meets complexity and spiritual truth is the ultimate destination.