A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing, interviewing and promoting David Rubel and his debut jazz album “Into the Dark”. Since that time, he has garnered rave reviews, radio airplay and a busy schedule through his teaching and performing of jazz music.
On three nights at the Jazz Bistro from March 5-7, David Rubel and his stellar quartet came together again to perform their stellar brand of jazz music. But this time around, there have been a few changes. First, the repertoire consists of tried, tested, and truly swinging standards ranging from Tin Pan Alley, bebop, hard-bop and post-bop eras. Second, the performance is being recorded live for a future CD. Last, and not least, the quartet has been augmented by a stellar vibraphone player from London, England by the name of Nat Steele to bring an extra complimentary voice to the David Rubel sound.
Nat Steele is a vibist who is one of the rising stars of his instrument in London He is clearly influenced by the modern vibraphone sounds by the likes of Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson, and can be heard performing a lot in the London Jazz Scene in places such as the legendary Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. He was discovered by David Rubel through a YouTube video, and through developing a mutual friendship that crosses international and musical divides they were brought together to record a live album that celebrates this cultural exchange.
From the beginning, the quintet gets into a swinging groove as evidenced in their treatment of Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way”. From the start, David’s saxophone tone is warm and relaxed, inviting the listeners to the charming beauty of the piece. Nat follows the inviting atmosphere of the piece by providing a cool Milt Jackson influenced solo that is laid back, swings easy, and leaves the audience wanting more. The rhythm section throughout is superb, with effective accompaniment by pianist Winston Matsushita, bassist Malcolm Connor, and drummer Robin Claxton.
On the next piece of the set, “Alone Together”, the swing factor becomes more pronounced and intense as the members of the quintet turn it up a notch. David turns it up through providing some intensity into his swing and digging into the song structure and melody. Winston’s piano solo adds touches of funk and groove into the piece, until the band comes together and closes off the piece on a highly swinging note.
A real highlight in the set that I attended was the quintet’s take on Hank Mobley’s “Dig Dis”. In this performance they really got into the core of funky hard bop blues through its delivery of the melody and the hard swinging stop and go solos by David, Nat, and Winston, who played an extended solo passage that brought a gospel tinge to the piece, and even echoing the hard-bop grooves of pianists such as Wynton Kelly and Red Garland for good measure.
A word about the bassist and drummer. Bassist Malcolm Connor provided a steady groove and sturdy timekeeping throughout the affair, keeping the arrangements and the feel of the performances as relaxed, simple, and swinging as possible. He even takes a great walking bass solo on the complex George Shearing tune “Conception” and effectively plays the complex melody in unison with David and Nat. Drummer Robin Claxton brings an excitement and a “snap” to the ensemble by playing with degrees of intensity and at times restraint, showing that he is very adaptable in various musical situations and is very musical in his approach to the drums. He takes a very strong coda for “What Is This Thing Called Love” before the piece comes to a close.
From what I witnessed on that Friday night, the quintet produced music that really pays homage and brings the audience back to the good old days of a mutually swinging jam session. Through selecting repertoire that stands the test of time and bringing their own unique voice to the classics, it is a breath of fresh air to hear (and record) jazz music that goes back to the basics of groove, swing, and rhythm. Through this live outing, not only I got a chance to hear a great complimentary talent from another country share the stage with like-minded Canadians, but I can’t wait for the world to hear what has transpired through the three days of music that was recorded at the Jazz Bistro.
OFFICIAL DAVID RUBEL WEB SITE:
(From Left: Winston Matsushita, Malcom Connor, David Rubel and Nat Steele. Robin Claxton is not pictured)