“Something about the sound Mike DiRubbo elicits from the alto saxophone – deep, dark, immense, with a machete edge that denotes a ready-for-anything urban sensibility – immediately grabs the ear. It’s a sound familiar to the cream of New York’s hardcore jazz community since the mid-‘90’s” writes Ted Panken.
Born on July 25, 1970 in New Haven, Connecticut, DiRubbo began his musical life as a junior high school clarinetist, and switched to alto saxophone at 12. A primarily self-taught saxophonist, he developed into a talented instrumentalist drawn inexorably to the notion of improvising. At a high school band concert, Mike had the opportunity to perform with the Dwike Mitchell – Willie Ruff duo, an experience that would add to his desire to be a professional musician and also spark his interest in jazz music.
In the fall of 1988 DiRubbo entered the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz of the Hartt School, University of Hartford, where he studied the tradition and history of African-American music and earned a Bachelor of Music degree. Mike’s instructors included master saxophonist Jackie McLean, pianists Hotep Galeta and Peter Woodard, bassists Nat Reeves and Rick Rozie and classical saxophonist Ken Radnofsky.
DiRubbo has gone on to perform regularly as both a leader and a sideman in and around New York City and abroad in Europe and the Middle East. He can be seen regularly at clubs in NYC with his various groups at venues such as Smalls, Smoke, 55 Bar, Kitano. Festivals he has performed at include the Litchfield Jazz Festival, the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, the JVC Jazz Festival in NYC and the Jazz, Blues and Videotape festival in Tel Aviv, Ferrara Jazz in Italy, Ancona Jazz Festival, Jazz In’IT, etc. Some of the musicians he has performed and recorded with are: Cecil Payne, Eddie Henderson, Harold Mabern, Larry Willis, Ronnie Matthews, John Hicks, Steve Davis, Tony Reedus, Mike LeDonne, Dwayne Burno, David Hazeltine, Steve Nelson, Mario Pavone, Carl Allen, Michael Weiss, Peter Washington, Nat Reeves, Ugonna Okegwo, Jim Rotondi, Brian Charette, Joe Farnsworth, Eric Alexander, Dave Kikoski, Anthony Wonsey, Brian Lynch, Peter Bernstein, Paul Bollenback, Ari Hoenig, Joe Magnarelli, John Swana, Ralph Bowen, Essiet Essiet, Rudy Royston, Matt Wilson, and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown.
Mike has seven CDs as a leader: From the Inside Out (Sharp Nine Records 1999); Keep Steppin’ (Criss Cross Jazz 2001); Human Spirit (Criss Cross Jazz 2003); New York Accent (Cellar Live 2007); Repercussion (Posi-Tone Records 2009), “Chronos” (Posi-Tone Records 2011) and his latest, “Four Hands, One Heart” (Ksanti Records 2011). He has also been featured on seven of trombonist Steve Davis’ recordings: The Jaunt; Crossfire; Vibe Up!; Systems Blue; Outlook; Live at Smalls and Images. Mike can also be heard as a sideman on the Fresh Sounds, Criss Cross, Double Time Jazz, Steeplechase and Knitting Factory labels. DiRubbo has been featured in articles, reviews, and interviews in magazines such as Saxophone Journal, Hothouse, Jazz Times, Downbeat, Jazz Journal, Cadence, Swing Journal, Jazz Folio, JazzWise, All Music Guide and All About Jazz.
Continuing the circle of knowledge, DiRubbo has been a resident artist at the Litchfield Jazz Camp since it’s inauguration in 1996. Most recently he has been a guest instructor at SUNY Purchase in NY, at William Patterson University’s jazz program, at New York University, at the Jackie McLean Institute and is a saxophone tutor at the New School in NYC. He has also conducted master-classes at Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio, Loyola University in New Orleans, and at the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the University of Hartford. Mike endorses Virtuoso saxophones by RS Berkeley and is a Vandoren saxophone artist.