Tag Archives: Marc Ribot

Marc Ribot live at Cafe Oto: 28 April 2016

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(A2 screenprint sold via Cafe Oto- see link below. Permission granted for use here).

Marc Ribot is a brilliant guitarist and composer, whose last two releases have been reviewed here at downwithit, most recently, in March 2016, when I looked at his Young Philadelphians project (which you can read about here).

The diverse musical interests of this artist have resulted in him having an extensive and wide-ranging back catalogue of recordings. These include film scores; free-jazz; classical guitar; New York avant-garde; Cuban; funk and session work with an impressive list of artists. I was looking forward to this show, which was the first of two at this London venue but I was curious and indeed slightly apprehensive about what aspects of his repertoire would be featured.

This was my first visit to Cafe Oto which is located a couple of hundred metres from Dalston Junction Overground Station in a street that shows signs of recent changes of use from commercial to residential and entertainment and which now hosts a theatre and a couple of interesting bars, including Cafe Oto. The venue concentrates on cutting-edge music that is rarely heard elsewhere. My fellow audience members were an older, urban crowd drawn from the thoughtful and knowledgable segment of concertgoers. Conversations around me in the long line outside the club centered on gallery openings and other arts related matters and I felt confident that Ribot was going to be received with rapt attention for this sold-out performance.

A support slot was provided by Paul Abbott (drums) and Pat Thomas (piano). Back in the 80’s I saw Cecil Taylor play an extremely challenging set at Ronnie Scott’s. It was not to my taste and was 90 minutes of my life that could have been put to better use. For this set I was fortunate to be able to have a very clear view of the keyboard and, for this non-pianist, seeing exactly what Pat Thomas was doing made this free form performance intelligible. Thomas played keyboards on the Black Top album that I looked at back in August 2014 and it was good to have an opportunity to see him play live. The single long piece that they delivered had much of the complexity of a fiery late John Coltrane composition like Interstellar Space, although I felt it took on a degree of predictability towards its conclusion as I found myself having a very clear idea of where the duo were taking us. Perhaps I’m more open to less conventionally structured music these days so I have to say that I enjoyed this live set, although in my opinion it was music best heard in a live setting rather than something that would easily fit with my home listening.

It was soon time for Marc Ribot who played a single well worn-in steel strung acoustic guitar throughout the entire performance. His set included two pieces by classical composer Frantz Casseus and a John Zorn number which involved ‘preparation’ of the guitar using an additional bridge and what looked like a nail file and playing utilising a steel bottle neck, a bow and several balloons. As you may assume, this did sound most unconventional but was well received within the context of Ribot’s show. Overall, his playing entranced and shook away the cares of the world. There was no direct reference to the music of Young Philadelphians or to Albert Ayler but I was more than happy with the artist’s own choice of material.

Marc Ribot showed that he is a virtuoso guitarist, in complete command of his instrument and willing to forge out beyond the conventional range of the guitar. He can play beautifully but can also present the sour with the sweet in a way which stretches and enriches the listener’s metaphorical palate. I enjoyed myself tremendously and will be the first in the queue for tickets next time he plays at a venue near me. If you enjoy great guitar you may want to do the same.

The image is by Oliver Barrett from photos by Dawid Laskowski. It was formerly available from Cafe Oto While stocks lasted.

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Marc Ribot Trio: Live at The Village Vanguard

Marc Ribot cover

It’s time for another contemporary album. The one that caught my eye to write about for for you this month is by Mark Ribot who is an incredibly prolific session guitarist. Released in May 2014 it is a recording of Ribot playing with Henry Grimes and Chad Taylor in 2012 at New York’s Village Vanguard, a legendary New York Jazz Club that I have yet to visit (although many years ago I saw Issac Hayes play a set at The Blue Note). First things first, we’ll get the artist’s name right, as he encourages us to do at his website. Repeat after me, REE-Bow! Good, that’s out of the way- so no excuses when you go to the shop.

Marc Ribot has played in a hugely diverse range of styles, as a sideman with Tom Waits, Wilson Pickett, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Marianne Faithfull, Madelaine Peyroux, McCoy Tyner, John Zorn and many, many others. He counts free jazz luminary, Albert Ayler as a major influence and his earlier Spiritual Unity set from 2008 is a collection of five Ayler numbers, including Truth is Marching In, which is was one of the first free jazz tracks that I got beyond the shock of and really listened to (in breaks from studying in Goldsmith’s College library in the late 1980’s). Our bass man for The Ribot set, Henry Grimes actually played bass on this when it was first recorded live by Ayler, also at The Village Vanguard, in December 1966. Two Ayler tracks feature here, along with a couple of late career John Coltrane outings and two traditional ballads which offer respite from the free jazz flamers.

Opening with a bowed bass introduction, some beautiful guitar playing and some very Elvin Jones style drumming, John Coltrane’s Dearly Beloved is initially lofty and atmospheric before giving way to some pyrotechnic style soloing from Ribot. It is a robust, yet exciting and engaging performance.

Ayler’s The Wizard is next up. It is an electric guitar workout, played at pace with lots of Elvin Jones style cymbals from Taylor. Later, Grimes takes a bass solo before Ribot returns to add a series of guitar runs as the piece ends.

Old Man River is the famous Kern/Hammerstein number from ‘Showboat’. It is a very fine version, worth the price of the CD by itself, in my opinion. I would have included it here if there was a YouTube version currently available, but there isn’t, so no such treat is presented for you.

Bells, the second Albert Ayler composition, weighs in at 19:09 and is the longest piece on the set. After a gentle first half it moves through a passage that is reminiscent of and draws from American marching band music (of course Ayler served as a military bandsman in his early years). From there on, it is free Jimi Hendrix-like acid guitar virtuosity- which I can only appreciate in small segments.

I’m Confessin’ That I’m Lovin’ You. is played straightforwardly as a melodic ballad, vaguely reminiscent of the Hot Club style, without anything to frighten even the most skittish horse.

Touch or click on the arrow to play film.

John Coltrane’s Sun Ship closes the recording, with another powerful and angry sounding piece.

It has been exciting to listen to Live at The Village Vanguard. Whilst most of this is not exactly music to accompany a dinner party, it captures the excitement of what must have been a gripping concert. If I hadn’t begun to look at recent releases it is very likely that The Marc Ribot Trio would have remained a mystery to me. As it is, I will try to see them when they next play in London or Manchester.

Marc Ribot is clearly a very skilled guitarist, although he is critical of his own technical limitations as he explained that he is a natural left hander who learned to play guitar right handedly. Henry Grimes, the trio’s bass player (and violinist) has an amazing story to tell. In the 60’s he played with many of the greats, including Albert Ayler himself (as noted above) before a trip to California to play with Al Jarreau and Jon Hendricks went badly awry, leaving him with a broken bass that he could not afford to have repaired. He spent over 30 years in LA employed as a manual labourer and renting a small room where he wrote poetry in his free-time, before being prompted to take up the bass again, rapidly recover his former prowess and take New York by storm. You can read more here.

Marc Ribot 2

Chad Taylor, on drums, completes the lineup. He started out in his childhood as a guitarist before switching to drums. His website is here.

The band etc: Henry Grimes (bass, violin); Marc Ribot (guitar); Chad Taylor (drums). Recorded: 30 June 2012 at The Village Vanguard, New York City. Produced by Chad Taylor. Sleeve Design: Michael Cina and Norah Stone. Photography: David O’Shaughnessy. Issued on Pi Recordings, May 2014.

Marc Ribot’s website is here

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