Felonious Punk

THESE FOOLISH THINGS
GHOSTS
BOUNCIN’ AROUND

Marc Ribot
Don’t Blame Me
DIW : 1995

MR, guitar.

Many thanks to all entrants in the contests we ran last week. And to Pi Records for generously providing the three autographed Henry Threadgill CDs as prizes. The blindfold song was a duet between McCoy Tyner and Marc Ribot called “Improvisation #2.” Congratulations for recognizing the tune and players are due to:

Bart White, in “(almost) jazzless Tampa”

Bart was one of three to correctly i.d. the tune.

As for our contest of pure chance, the number we had selected was 17. Congratulations to…

John Katoflis, of Greece!

And a slight nod of consolation to Kikuchiyo, who correctly surmised that it was a prime number. Bigger head-shake of consolation to Bg Porter, whom we accidentally shafted in a misread of the comments.

On the Twitter front, the winner was…

He who goes by mapsadaisical

We did not anticipate a few complications in trying to run a Twitter contest. Please accept our apologies — mea culpa! — on a less-than-orderly process. Among the glitches: we hadn’t realized that those whom we were not following wouldn’t be able to send us direct messages. This is doubtless Twitter 101; we’ll know better next time.

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Our blindfold track threw many people for a loop. The combination of McCoy Tyner and Marc Ribot is so unlikely that you might want to relisten to the track again with the players in mind. (Most guesses nodded toward Joe Morris and Matthew Shipp.) This surprisingly effective piece comes from Tyner’s recent album Guitars. People don’t generally think of McCoy Tyner in terms of free improv and downtown guitarists, but the guy has been underestimated throughout his career. More on that later. For this post we’re focusing on his duet partner, Marc Ribot.

Ribot has long been one of our favorite guitarists, but his solo work tends to get overshadowed by his memorable stints as a sideman for such diverse figures as Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, The Lounge Lizards, Richard Hell, John Zorn, etc. He steps out without a net on the remarkable Don’t Blame Me, a solo guitar album of various jazz standards. It’s something of a sister album to Derek Bailey’s stellar Ballads. Unfortunately, Don’t Blame Me was only briefly available as an import and has since fallen through the cracks.

In his book Weather Bird, Gary Giddins sums up its charms:

Don’t Blame Me consists chiefly of standards, and actually mines them for something beyond the usual glibness of theme and variations. Ribot maintains a respect for their songfulness that shuns wanton irony. He plays them as though the lead sheets were painted over a long wall in oversized notes, each note to be tested and rejected before moving on to the next. Throughout, Ribot tenders a sense of quiet amusement and accomplished discernment. If you need a reference point, consider Thelonious Monk.

Maybe Monk with a serious chip on his shoulder. That comparison can be heard most clearly in Ribot’s idiosyncratic phrasings for “These Foolish Things.” His taste in standards is hardly musty, as evidenced by his passionate evocation of Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts.” It’s the first evidence of his long-blooming fascination with transmuting Ayler’s sound and compositions to guitar. And in a completely different vein, there’s the noir shuffle of “Bouncin’ Around,” which evokes early rock and roll and is creepy enough to serve time in a David Lynch soundtrack. Three diverse sides that still only hint at Ribot’s range.

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COMING ON WEDNESDAY: A special guest post by Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus, on a pianist with strong ties to two of the great composers of modern jazz. You won’t want to miss it.

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