Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog – Party Intellectuals (Pi Recordings, 2008)
In some recent pictures, guitarist Marc Ribot looks like that professor you had in college… complete with scruffy salt and pepper hair and a wry smile. But this belies the heart of a radical musical polymath that still beats within him. Jumping from sideman to leader, project to project, Ribot flits like a butterfly in the music world. On his most recent project as a leader, a band called Ceramic Dog, he is joined by Shahzad Ismaily on bass and Ches Smith on drums. This is one of his most diverse projects, embracing free jazz, Latin music as well as No-Wave punk rock. It’s a bit of a shock to hear the group blast off with a thoroughly punk version of The Doors “Break on Through” sounding like it would be more appropriate at CBGB’s with torn jeans and safety pins than the love beads at the Whiskey a Go-Go. “Midost” continues the punk vibe, digging deep into a guitar led free jazz in territory mined by the likes of Nels Cline, Sonny Sharrock and Sonic Youth. Ribot has long explored Latin music and that is represented here by “Todo El Mundo Es Kitsch” and “For Marlena.” These are a little weak compared to his excellent work with the Prostetic Cubans band he led during the 1990’s. Also pallid are the slow abstract poetry of “When We Were Young and We Were Freaks” and the experimental “ShSh ShSh” both of which contain good ideas that are never fully developed. What does work well is the band’s funky title track, which mixes the jazz fusion of Roland Shannon Jackson’s old Decoding Society band with a heavy dollop of funk and humor to excellent effect. So this album is a bit of a mixed bag. Think of it as a bit of a Ribot sampler, with examples of the different musical aspects of his talent.
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