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Interviews

Marc Ribot: That's the Way I View It From New York

By Published: March 27, 2006
AAJ: For the actual studio recording session that produced most of these pieces—this music is so based upon interplay. It's impossible for me to imagine this music being performed where you couldn't all see each other.

MR: We were all in the same room. It was at Bill Laswell's studio in West Orange [New Jersey]. We definitely had to be in the same room, yep.

Marc RibotAAJ: I think the song "Saints on this record is particularly great. There's a sense of slow, gathering tension and a feeling of potential energy. Of all the pieces on this record, this one acts the least like a clichéd song—it doesn't build to any traditional climaxes at all, but it still has a wholeness to it. It's self-contained. Mind you, that's a subjective interpretation.

MR: No, I hear exactly what you're saying. It's a lovely piece and that's nice. There's a tendency in this type of playing to want to build to the screaming, improvised climax on every one and that's a tendency that should be resisted. The object should be to stay in the language of the piece—not that we always realize that goal. Stuff goes where it tends to go, but that's the ideal.

AAJ: The other observation that I could make would be that a song like "Spirits, which is very celebratory to me, is a bit more solo-based than, say, "Invocation, which is about group polyphony.

MR: Yeah. We did sometimes fall into that. And Ayler is not completely devoid of people taking solos. It's like your memory of it is just people always blowing at the same time, but if you actually listen to it, that's not the case. Having said that, we probably fall into the solo format of standard jazz a little more than Ayler did, which is something we're working on.

AAJ: Well, I'm not anti-solo. Are you?

MR: I'm not anti-solo. I'm anti-cliché. I'm pro-solo when that's the right thing to do, but there are default settings for jazz players—it's the thing you do in your sleep that you hadn't thought about. You play the head, then people take turns playing solos, then the drummer solos last, you break it up, play fours with the drummer, and then you play the head again. I think sometimes that default setting works, and sometimes it doesn't. You do a whole night of that, your solos better be really something that's never been done before. The players might be really into it, but me as an audience member—I'm not into it. To see people on the default settings. There are people who are brilliant soloists. Now, whether historically that's what we need right now is another question. And whether it's better than the brilliant soloists I can go out and buy CDs by—that's a whole other question. Anything's possible [laughing].

I'll say this about the record. I'm proud of the record and I stand by it. But the story of that record is that we had a tour in Europe last year and we wanted to record in time so the record would be out, so we could sell it on the tour. In one sense, that's kind of a standard strategy; it's what we were supposed to do and we did it. In another sense, by the third night of the tour, we had so far surpassed where we were at the time of the record that, well, let's put it this way: I hope that we can do another one [laughing].

AAJ: I was going to ask you if the music was changing or mutating in performance, and now I think you've answered that.

MR: Absolutely. The band has gotten, I think, so good. For a while, we tried rehearsing, but now our latest thing is to just show up and hit. The Knitting Factory gig [that the group had just played] was okay, but this stuff doesn't really lend itself to a 45-minute format. It's like Lacanian therapy; you might go for 45 minutes, you might end up playing for 45 minutes, but you have to know that the runway is clear. You might be able to take off at a hundred yards, but you want the runway to be longer than that, because you never know.

AAJ: So you like knowing you can take a longer set.

MR: A 200-yard runway.

AAJ: You don't necessarily need to use it.

MR: You don't have to use it. You have to know you've got the space to do what you have to do. On the other hand, we did a gig at the Stone—I have a recording of it —and we've done other gigs, like one I have a recording of at Salzburg—we had people in Salzburg testifying. It was unbelievable.

AAJ: It sounds like you like playing in this band a lot.

MR: Yeah. It's really fun.

AAJ: How many tunes do you have? How many can this band play?

MR: At one time or another, we've probably gone over twenty tunes. Maybe a little more. We draw from an active repertoire of twelve, fifteen. Anybody can start any of them at any time. At the Knitting Factory, Roy was jumping into completely different tunes [laughing] in the middle of tunes that we were doing.

AAJ: I know you're somewhat over the record, since you've sort of surpassed it since its recording.

MR: No, I stand by it; I'm really glad we did it.


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