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Marc Ribot Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard

John Ephland By

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Yours truly is truly ashamed to be reporting on this recording at such a late date. That said, Marc Ribot: Live At The Village Vanguard is the kind of recording that, if you weren't, makes you wish you were there. Yes, it's a Live at the V-squared, which may remind you of other now-celebrated recordings at that famous V-shaped cathouse.

In this case, it's particularly notable because of three ingredients: the setting (already mentioned), the artists, and, number three, the repertoire. A combination of covers performed by three mutually reinforcing spirits, guitarist Marc Ribot is joined by hefty stalwart bassist Henry Grimes, both of them buttressed by the amiably obtrusive Chad Taylor on drums.

Beginning with the first of two John Coltrane covers, "Dearly Beloved," the table is set. Slowly placing the musical notes and beats in their proper place, the gradual intensity of these three instrumentalists plowing into each other somehow maintains composure even as said composure splits up into something akin to a beloved rocket launch. You can hear the audience cheering during a break in Ribot's breakneck speed-demon solo, and as Taylor carries the flow in a manner not unlike that of hearing drums and cymbals falling down some stairs. The stairs of the Village Vanguard.

Recorded in 2012 but released in the spring of this year Live At The Village Vanguard highlights Ribot's hillbilly, rockabilly sensibility as he lead his cohorts through Albert Ayler's wacky "The Wizard," the trio's disciplined waywardness filled with the crazy abandon kids might have on the playground during an unannounced recess. Grimes and Taylor are like appendages but totally on their own as well, Ribot's guitar blasts and blurts somehow only fully realized because this particular pair of pals is/are sharing the stage. The song's malleability allows for the night's first bona fide swing. More three-as-one. Out becomes in, becomes something else.

Another Ayler tune follows (a flamboyant, typically folksy, periodically manic 19-minute "Bells"), but first it's time to swerve into the first of the set's two standards, standards that hold the tension that surrounds them even as they go totally agains type in this trio's hands. "Old Man River" takes it nice and slow, just like its inspiration. A showcase for Ribot, it's the refinement of all that has already been played, the music a thing of beauty even Jerome and Oscar might find some delight in. And here is what is so lovable about this set: its sheer musical unpredictability. In fact, it is that melding, clashing, swimming series of alterations between different forms of ecstasy, from so-called traditional to wildly experimental that keeps this listener engaged, never really sure. The "Bells" sandwich also includes a tender rendition of "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)," again with a pace that's slow, with a meandering gait as lost as any backwoods swamp you might imagine, the three strolling and lazily swinging their collective way through the tune's oh-so-sweet melody. It's jazz minus the chops.

That Live At The Village Vanguard ends with Coltrane's "Sun Ship" makes eloquent sense, especially when the trio, once again, shift gears, giving you the impression that "Sun Ship" (a late-Coltrane recording with his classic quartet still in tow) was ready-made for the elastic machinactions this band provides. Its rhythmically jerky sawed-off theme is recognizably stated, but then they go off into another alternatively seductive rhythmic universe, where up-tempo swing's the thing. That is, until they start fraying the music again, in perhaps this trio's best expression of itself, another deft, rough-and-ready Taylor drum solo a highlight. (The crowd once again wowed.)

The romantic standards have lasting value here, but it is the splintering amidst those sweet, sweet melodies that might just leave you going in two directions at once.

Track Listing: Dearly Beloved; The Wizard; Old Man River; Bells; I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You); Sun Ship.

Personnel: Henry Grimes: bass, violin; Marc Ribot: guitar; Chad Taylor: drums.

Title: Live At The Village Vanguard | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Pi Recordings

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