20-year old jazz saxophonist, composer, and bandleader Mike Ruby is one of the brightest, young stars on the international scene. After establishing himself in Toronto, Ruby recently won the President’s Award to attend the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, where he will study with such jazz luminaries as Steve Wilson, Dave Liebman, and Bob Mintzer while spending his nights jamming at Big Apple clubs. Recent winner of JAZZ.FM91’s Project Jazz, Mike Ruby has released his startlingly original and moving CD debut "Play Time", on Alma Records.
Produced by Peter Cardinali and Scott Morin and engineered by Denis Tougas at Toronto’s Phase One Recording Studio, Play Time features Ruby’s powerful tenor saxophone and several of his brilliant, rhythmically sophisticated, original compositions, as well as daring readings of Some Day My Prince Will Come and Giant Steps.
Mike’s muscular tenor is backed by a fine young band featuring the award-winning keyboardist Pascal Leboeuf and the Toronto-based rhythm team of bassist Dan Fortin and drummer Adam Arruda. LeBoeuf divides his time between his home in California and New York, where he just graduated from the Manhattan School of Music. Among the pianist’s many recent awards is the 2006 Independent Music Award for Best Jazz CD that he shared with his alto sax-playing twin, Remy.
On Play Time the rhythm trio percolates and punctuates Ruby’s original wailing and transcendent, lyrical playing with an intuitive grace. It’s an impressive series of bristling and beautiful performances and a showcase for young Ruby’s skill as an improviser and composer. One of the strongest tracks is Mike’s soulful original, Father’s Song.
“The music on Play Time reflects and was, in part, inspired by my father’s long, hard, three-year battle with cancer,” the saxophonist explains. “Before he passed away, he came to me and explained that money doesn’t matter and to follow my love of music, to follow my heart.
“Play Time reflects my personal regrouping after my father’s death and my attempt to express how I was feeling, how I was getting stronger, and how excited I am to be going to New York.”
Ruby has been on a passionate jazz quest since falling in love with the music on a Charlie Parker CD when he was 13.
“I fell in love with jazz and always wanted to play the horn,” Ruby continued. “At first, I played alto, and my high school music teacher hooked me up with Alex Dean. I’ve been studying with Alex ever since. He’s a great teacher and has taken a kind of fatherly role in my life.”
By grade 11, Ruby enrolled into the Humber College jazz community program. After adding flute, clarinet, and soprano sax to his musical arsenal, Mike got his classical chops together while studying for two years at the University of Toronto and working privately with Alex Dean and Quinsin Nachoff. He’s also studied with Dave Douglas, Greg Osby, Denny McCaslin and other world-class musicians at the Banff International Jazz Workshop, where Ruby was able to participate in another of his passions, nature.
“I love hiking and canoeing in Algonquin Park. The farther north you go into wilderness, the better,” the musician enthused. “While at Banff, I joined one of my best friends on a ten - hour hike to the top of Mount Rundle and an incredible view of Bow Valley and the distant Rocky Mountain summits.”
There are echoes of that wild, transformative experience on Play Time too, and there’s a spiritual quality in Ruby’s playing similar to the deeply spiritual sounds of his major musical influence, John Coltrane.
“My influences range from contemporary jazz musicians like David Binney, Brian Blade, and Mark Turner to classical composers like Debussy, but my main influence is Coltrane. His music touches me deeply, and I hope to make beautiful music that will hopefully touch others.”
On Play Time, young Mike Ruby offers a debut recording of profound, majestic soulfulness. It’s a beauty!