The piano-less trio is tailor-made for Rudy Royston. The combustible combinations the drummer derives from his kit contain enough rhythmic refreshment, textural variation and ensemble ingenuity to compensate for any absence of chordal or harmonic intrigue. He’s a dynamo who can be feathery or wry as the situation warrants.
Rise of Orion is the sort of spare, brutish blend of grooves and eruptions Royston’s fans expected from his debut. But 303—a 2014 septet recording named for an area code in his native Colorado—was an expansive grab bag, with a pianist, guitarist, two horns and two basses playing covers of Radiohead and Mozart as well as originals. Since then, the in-demand Royston has guested on numerous records, twining with saxophonists on two of the best discs from 2016, Tom Tallitsch’s Gratitude and JD Allen’s trio date Americana. He needed a similarly formidable frontman on Rise of Orion, and the vibrant and versatile multi-saxophonist Jon Irabagon fills the bill.