Album Reviews

Rudy Royston Trio

Rise of Orion

Artist:     Rudy Royston Trio

Album:     Rise of Orion

Label:     Greenleaf Music

Release Date:     11/18/2016


Major kudos to drummer/composer Rudy Royston who, after two decades of working with top flight jazzers as Ravi Coltrane, Bill Frisell and Branford Marsalis, delivers his second disc as session leader, and it’s a frikkin’ powerhouse. Like a series of well-timed explosives, Rise of Orion roils, rocks, rolls, rumbles and ranges far and wide in execution and intent. Groove after groove aggressively explores the limits and the horizons open to three virtuosos and their chosen instruments.

Bursting from your player like a rogue roller coaster, the percolating title track sets the tone for the twelve tracks to follow. Recorded in one late February session, Royston, and his intuitively genius choices of hard charging, NY saxophonist Jon Irabagon and bassist Yasushi Nakamura, bring a boundless energy to Royston’s driving, free form compositions. Irabagon’s squawks, squeals and high flying tonality lends insight into what Coltrane would have sounded like in the trio setting while Nakamura simultaneously grounds and blows the roof off the studio, allowing his feverish band mates infinite space to express themselves.

But I do have a bitch to exhale. Given the uncompromising nature of Royston’s originals and the deep interplay among the trio, I find the two lengthy interpretations of Purcell’s aria “Dido’s Lament” and Bill Withers’ “Make a Smile for Me” a bit too, common? Contained? Take your pick. Fortunately, “Nautical,” “Kolbe War,” and the short but powerful “Aintak,” “Ainlam” and “Mintaka” wash those moments away in triumph.

-Mike Jurkovic

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