It seems particularly alive on the previously unissued 1998 New York sessions that have just been released on Arbors ARCD 19426 as OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY.
Four extended tracks (LINGER AWHILE, ALL MY LIFE, DAY IN, DAY OUT, and I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA) feature Ruby with Chuck Wilson (alto and clarinet), Howard Alden, Jon Wheatley (guitars), Marshall Wood (bass), Jim Gwin (drums). I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW adds Scott Robinson (tenor) to this; ‘DEED I DO, CLEAR WATER (Ruby’s composition on LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME CHANGES), a medley of WHAT IS THERE TO SAY and OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY, and a medium-slow DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL add Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet) as well.
Ruby’s playing is superb, free from some of the irritable-sounding harmonic “adventurousness” he embarked on when he felt restless. Here he is among dear friends from Boston and New York, and his comfort is tangible.
Although Ruby never played a phrase that didn’t have Louis standing in back of it, the atmosphere here is so thoroughly Basie-inflected that I was always waiting for a piano chorus. Long, loping lines at swinging tempos, gently intense melodic embellishment . . . a celebration of swing, with riffs blossoming behind soloists, Ruby shaping performances as only he could.
Only those who saw Ruby in person or on video will understand that he was perhaps the finest on-the-spot arranger — a three-dimensional instantaneous musical architest — that most of us will ever know.
The rhythm section is a model of generous, seamless subtlety — and the soloists float over it. Ruby is both passionate and amused (you hear his playfulness in the neat quotes and riffs; you hear his soul in his melodic lines). Scott Robinson’s tenor is based in Lester but with Scott’s inimitable sideways manner of perceiving the world; Chuck Wilson’s lemony sound suggests Pete Brown and Lester on clarinet, and then there’s Kellso.
Ruby is one of his heroes but Jon-Erik is always his own man, his sound shifting from deep and pretty to growly in an Eldridge mode. Ruby didn’t like sharing the stage with other trumpeters and often did it under duress, but when he did (with Roy on a wonderful RCA session, EASY NOW) he sounded exquisite. Both Ruby and Jon-Erik sound as if they are thriving on the propinquity, the emotional teamwork.
These sessions have the freedom and inventiveness of Ruby’s best work, and the CD is a rare gift (made even better by attentive, loving notes from Ruby’s bio-discographer Tom Hustad, whose BORN TO PLAY is scheduled to be published this year.
My title comes from something Ruby said at the second session: it could have been his life’s motto.
You’ll want this CD.