A Fireside Chat with Marc Ribot
AAJ: Touch on your six degrees of separation from Ornette Coleman.
MR: I've never actually worked with Ornette. I am a great fan of his music, in particular, the Prime Time band has been, I always thought was a terrific band. The early albums of the Prime Time band, Of Human Feelings (Antilles), In All Languages (Verve), I also liked quite a bit. I mean, these records really knocked my socks off. I've wound up doing some playing with Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Calvin Weston. The bassist in Los Cubanos Postizos is Brad Jones, who is also currently the Prime Time band bassist, so although I would certainly love to do some playing with Ornette, right now, our crossing of paths consists of sharing Brad Jones (laughing).
AAJ: Did you even conceive the phenomenal success of Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos (Atlantic)?
MR: Yeah, people seemed to like it. I didn't have a clue really, although I suppose the people that signed it might have had a clue. I didn't start it out thinking that this was going to be my next recording project. We never made demos. We never called any record people. We never shopped it. It was just a thing to do for fun and then we got signed. A friend of mine was sick and we played at his benefit and we got signed and so we made a record. I have to say, Fred, it is a little funny to be talking, to start out some interviews talking about Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler because when I was doing the band Shrek, those references were sort of very important band or Rootless Cosmopolitans. For the Cubanos Postizos, they don't really sound, there are some connections, but the Cubanos Postizos quite frankly sounds zero like Albert Ayler or Ornette Coleman. Not improvisation, let alone harmolodic or free improv is simply not that big a part of the Postizos. Basically, we have fun. We play. We jam. We like to make people dance whenever possible. In fact, if I could make people dance every night, I wouldn't care if I ever played to a sit down jazz audience again for the rest of my life. I'd happily prefer to play gay discos.
AAJ: Do people dance?
MR: Yeah, on a good night when the people are cool and the situation isn't too restrictive, nothing makes us happier or the people. I didn't take it all that seriously at the beginning and so I had the philosophy that, "Oh, OK, if there is no bread in the tour, we will tour as a trio (laughing). If there is bread, we will tour with all five people in the band." We toured as a trio, but actually, the group started as a trio.
AAJ: So it wasn't that big of a stretch?
MR: No, we had done it trio for quite a while in the beginning. We did that first tour as a trio.
AAJ: Let's touch on the soon to be released, Muy Divertido (Very Entertaining).
MR: I have to give the props, by the way, a lot of props to the producer, JD Foster. I don't know about the misconception of what free jazz is, but I know that very few music listeners quite understand what a producer does and is, and the way a producer takes the responsibility for the ultimate sound of the record and I can say the JD did brilliant work on this record. It almost operates subliminally, like little sections where it goes into mono, zillions of things he did. If you like it or you don't like it, blame JD (laughing). No, I think he did a fine job.
AAJ: Your work with saxophonists is nothing new, but I want to get your thoughts on your recent collaboration with label mate, James Carter.
MR: He's a true virtuoso saxophonist. He hired a rhythm section that is one of my favorites, Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Calvin Weston. In a way, it was a little surprising because I'd been doing a bunch of gigs with Jamaal and Calvin, but I was happy to find any situation in which I get paid to sit around and play with that rhythm section is one that makes me very happy.
AAJ: What qualities do you listen for in the music?
MR: Wow, good question. You know, Fred, after a while of listening to music, I almost don't hear the music. I hear people's intentions (laughing). It sounds crazy, but you develop an almost instant bullshit-ometer. What I don't like to hear and this may sound bad, but I don't like to hear ambition (laughing). I don't want to hear, if someone loves to play guitar, cool. That's great. If that's what they do, then they should do it, but I don't like to hear that here is the songs that are on the record because the guy's manager told him that he'd make more money on publishing royalties that way. I like stuff that rocks the house and if it's original then great.
AAJ: Do you cringe at the term avant-garde?
MR: I suppose it describes something, although weird would be a better word because avant-garde implies that history has one direction and some person or other is in the front of it. So very few people that I know who try to create new music would have the pretentiousness to call themselves avant-garde. The media uses it to describe music that is either difficult or unusual. I certainly wouldn't use it in connection with myself. Most people who do so called avant-garde music see themselves as working in a certain type of tradition and again, don't have the pretentiousness to imagine that they are standing at the front of the train of history. Literally, avant-garde means front guard, forward guard. Not that many people I know believes there is a forward, let alone a guard. It doesn't have all that much to do with the stuff I've been doing with the Postizos, either in the original sense or the pop media sense.