Wednesday, June 11, 2014

CD Review : Marc Ribot Trio - Live at the Village Vanguard

Marc Ribot Trio
Live at the Village Vanguard
(Pi Recordings)

There simply aren't enough musicians sharp enough to sequence an album to have "Old Man River" get sandwiched between two Albert Ayler compositions, with the second one to be followed by a drop-dead sincere reading of "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)." Marc Ribot does that on this set of recordings, taken from a January 2012 stay at the legendary Village Vanguard. It's quite possible that the order of tunes is not only the result of savvy sequencing, but that it happened that way in the New York club. Either way, it speaks volumes about the diversity of guitarist Ribot's huge palette of musical perspectives, in addition to the weight of music on this album.

Ribot's bandmates for this set are bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Chad Taylor. The three of them have played together for over a decade, first coming together in Spiritual Unity, a group devoted to Ayler's music, which also featured the late trumpeter Roy Campbell, Jr. Their interactions live up to the name of the previous group. Ribot's spiky tone stands out and can combine romantic with sarcastic on "Old Man River." Taylor adds to this track by throwing in a bossa nova beat on the middle eight of one chorus, and tom rolls on another which stoke the fires.

Together they turn Ayler's "The Wizard" into boogie-rock with a 2/2 groove from Grimes and Taylor which works because of the way Ribot colors it. By the closing chorus, things have taken on a freer direction, with Taylor evoking a calmer version of Sunny Murray or either of the Ali brothers, Rashied and Muhammed.

"Bells" lasts about as long as Ayler's original version, but starts in one place, revists the marching theme that held the original together and moves in a different direction. Grimes produces a flowing arco solo after an almost pastoral free guitar intro. Things get loud but never excessive. After the group brings it down for "I'm Confessin'," they go back for the final kill with a tight version Coltrane's "Sun Ship." (The saxophonist's "Dearly Beloved" opens the album.)

The appearance of Ribot, whose jazz work swings far to the left, at a institution like the Vanguard, known for presenting more grounded jazz artists, is not exactly a combination to be taken lightly. With that in mind, the trio doesn't take the scene in stride either. They pour themselves into the music playing with passion and conviction that even the straight ahead fans should appreciate on an emotional level. Also of note: Grimes hadn't performed at the famed club since 1966, when he appeared with Ayler, for what would be the saxophonist's Albert Ayler in Greenwich Village album.

Finally, Pi Recordings says on their website that Live at the Village Vanguard is available on vinyl, although "Bells" does not appear, due to length. However, the record comes with a download card for "Bells," as well another Ayler tune and a Ribot original. Now that's smart marketing.

No comments: