Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Marc Ribot Trio - Live at the Village Vanguard (Pi Recordings, 2014)

One of guitarist Marc Ribot's many projects was a group that nodded in the direction of the great saxophonist Albert Ayler. This group features Chad Taylor on drums and Henry Grimes (who recorded with Alyer in the 1960's) on bass and violin. They play an interesting setlist of two Albert Ayler tunes, two John Coltrane compositions and two standards. Everything works quite well, with the Coltrane compositions, "Dearly Beloved" and "Sun Ship" bookending the album, with both starting slowly and reverentially with Grimes' bowed bass/violin sounding solemn at times, but as the music builds in intensity, the spiritual nature of the music transforms a mood that could be grim into an ecstatic celebration of Coltrane's experimental spirit and the talent of this trio. The Alyer tracks are centerpiece of the album, especially the glorious "Bells" which echoes the epic Ayler performance of that name (recorded live as well and originally released as a one-sided LP in 1965.) Ribot's group uses dynamism to keep the music continually interesting throughout. They walk on a narrow ledge, but that's part of the excitement, listening to musicians letting it all hang out, using the structure of the composition as scaffolding to build their own original performance. They take a fascinating look at Ayler's "The Wizard," transforming it from the haunting melody of the original to a fast paced jaunty shuffle. It's easy to imagine that the crowd at the Vanguard was a little more comfortable with the standard fare of "Ol' Man River" and "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You). But the trio still manages to make the music their own. It is nice to see a venerable jazz club like the Village Vanguard opening its doors to no holds barred avant-garde fare like this. And Ribot's group certainly doesn't let them down, rising to the occasion with a great performance. Live at the Village Vanguard - amazon.com

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