Live At The Village Vanguard
Recently celebrating his 60th birthday, Marc Ribot continues to play with the vim and vigour of a man half his age; or half that – he continues to find in his guitar new sounds, and in himself new ways to coax and conjure those sounds. For here we have the howling sprawl of a guitar that wants to be a keyboard or saxophone – as well as always a guitar. And here we have a new trio that features bassist Henry Grimes. Prior to a 2003 reappearance Grimes hadn’t been heard from since the mid-60s when he worked with Albert Ayler. But on his long, exploratory solo across the epic Bells, where Grimes attacks his instrument with a bow, finding sonorous sermons from deep in the wood, he too is playing with the aims and ambitions of a man a fraction of his age.
You wonder if this is something Ribot brings out in people, or seeks out in people – it’s probably, of course, a bit of both. But he – and Grimes and drummer Chad Taylor – light a fire on this live album; they seem to want to show the endless possibilities of a guitar trio working in jazz. For this touches on the frantic energy of Santana’s towering Lotus; there are spaces and places explored that remind of John McLaughlin one minute, Hendrix the next. There’s an energy firing through this album, Ribot seems on a quest, admittedly it might actually be the same one he’s always been on, to show that the standard can be endlessly reworked, that jazz is the new metal and that rock’n’roll’s energy is a huge part of the dissonance in jazz, of the way towards finding new shapes from those same old charts.
Ribot’s Live At The Village Vanguard is the equivalent of the Kronos Quartet’s playing of The Star Spangled Banner; both a tribute as well as a hit’n’run.
In 20 years of being dazzled by his playing – as leader, as sideman, in rock settings, with ensembles, as soloist, as jazzer, as sonic manipulator this is as good as I’ve ever heard Marc Ribot sound; as committed, as fired, as huge.
It’s an assault.
And it’s fucking glorious.