Anthony Rufo’s hybrid-filled Passionate Presence
Crawling out of the sonic shadows like a beastly force to be reckoned with, “I Am 2” welcomes us into the warm embrace of Anthony Rufo’s hybrid-filled Passionate Presence like no other song here could have. The first in a tracklist of thirteen unique and original compositions, “I Am 2” sets things off on a swinging note before turning us over to the gluttonous grooving of the jazz-fueled “Leaving It Up To You,” frisky “We Can’t Connect” and fiery title cut, each of which boasts a more provocative punch than the song that came before it. Anthony Rufo is on a mission to quake floorboards and shake hips in Passionate Presence, and he couldn’t sound much more adept at either even if he wanted to.
“E.G.A.H.I.M.P.” draws a little more jazz flavor into the pot courtesy of a flamboyant sax part, but its nucleus has just as much of a blues swagger as it does anything from the roaring experimental lexicon of jazz. “Empty” is a delta dirge with a blisteringly hot overdrive that immediately reminded me of 80’s Soundgarden, but I wouldn’t say it – or any of the songs here – would qualify as a throwback track. There’s as much of a unique spirit to this tune as there is the midcentury pop-rocker “Time Stands Still,” and while these two compositions in particular couldn’t be any more different cosmetically, they don’t make for odd neighbors in this album at all. Passionate Presence celebrates the diversity of modern music, and that could be why it’s such an accessible offering no matter which angle we’re analyzing it from.
“No End In Sight” turns up the confident stomp of “Time Stands Still” to fit in with the bluesy sound of “Empty,” but it isn’t until we get into the feral “Belly of the Beast” that we get a good idea of just how multilayered a dynamic Rufo is working with in the studio here. Along with the instrumental intermission piece “Advent,” “Belly of the Beast” feels like a progressive interlude that could be transformed into a 20-minute opus on stage. We take a turn for the conventional with the return to steady grooving in “Lady of Light,” but the transition between styles in Passionate Presence – somehow – never feels jarring or unexpectedly ripping.
A broodingly engaging salvo penetrates our speakers in “Eyes of Compassion,” and as we fall into the arms of the concluding track in Passionate Presence, “Eagles Fly,” the gravity of this record’s emotionality finally, and completely, sinks in. Anthony Rufo is a relative unknown to most mainstream audiences at the moment, but if this is the caliber of performance we can anticipate seeing and hearing from him in the future still to come, his status in the industry is going to swell faster than a hurricane wave. This is a wonderful way of getting acquainted with his artistic narrative, and hopefully, this won’t be the lone occasion on which I have the opportunity to review his work. He’s got a lot of talent, and simply put, it’s being put to great use here.