Art be damned, let's dance. If you are of a certain age, let's say the baby boomer generation, then the vintage sounds of Philadelphia soul are imprinted on your brain. The 1970's began with The O'Jays "Back Stabbers," which you might have heard on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, a show that originated in Philly, or perhaps you've ridden "The Love Train" or danced to "Me And Mrs. Jones" at a wedding. Those tunes were stamped in your soul, and at a time of great turmoil in society (both then and now) the innocence of the Philly sound is life affirming.
Enter guitarist Marc Ribot, avant gardist with soul. He has backed performers such as Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, and Joe Henry and covered music by Albert Ayler, the Haitian-born Frantz Casseus, Jimi Hendrix, and George Harrison. His projects, Ceramic Dog, Caged Funk, Rootless Cosmopolitans, and many others, always turn left when you expect a right-on-red. Same can be said for the quartet The Young Philadelphians with guitarist Mary Halvorson and Philadelphia natives Jamaaladeen Tacuma (bass) and G. Calvin Weston (Drums). There have been rumors and much speculation about this band, thankfully we get a taste of it live from a 2014 concert in Tokyo.
The left turn here is Ribot's logical mish-mash (not an oxymoron) of classic Philly soul with elements of Ornette Coleman's electric Prime Time band. For that he recruited original members Tacuma and Weston. Remarkable how Ribot orchestrates the classic tunes, "Love Epidemic," "Love Rollercoaster," "TSOP [The Sound of Philadelphia]" and even the eye-rolling wedding dance tune "The Hustle" with his unique hipster (not used in the pejorative sense) logic.
With the help of a string trio, a layer often added to those classic Philly records, he negotiates "TSOP" with the same sincerity he applied to Ayler's music. Weston applies the beat apropos and Tacuma the funk, allowing for Halvorson and Ribot to sing the body electric guitar. The disc is packed full of rump shaking steak and cheese party sounds.
Love Epidemic; Love TKO; Fly, Robin, Fly; TSOP [The Sound of Philadelphia]; Love
Rollercoaster; Do It Anyway You Wanna; The Hustle.
Marc Ribot: guitar; Jamaaladeen Tacuma: bass; G. Calvin Weston: drums; Mary
Halvorson: guitar; Takako Siba: viola; Yoshie Kajiwara: violin; China Azuma: cello.