Felonious Punk


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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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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11 Responses to Felonious Punk

  1. You really dq-ed me because of my jokey 17-to-the-0.5-power bit? Oh, well — that will teach me, I guess. Congrats to Mr Katoflis.

  2. GACK. No, not dq-ed, just flubbed. I read the comments in the wrong order, and took Katoflis’ for the earlier entry. Will try to rectify by scoring you — or hell, buying you — your rightful, own copy.

  3. Totally not necessary (especially the out of pocket approach), but the thought is appreciated (I’d be buying this one anyway, been spinning “Up Popped the Two Lips” a lot lately and just generally in a Threadgill mode…)

  4. For anyone who missed out on winning a copy of the Threadgill CD, we have extended our sale at Pirecordings.com where you can even score an autographed copy! Pick up some Marc Ribot while you’re at it.

    More on Mr. Ribot: Solo guitar? Film soundtrack? I think Mssrs LeDrew and Chill are reading my mind. Stay tuned.

  5. I actually interviewed both Ribot and Tyner for a Jazziz feature around this album, which makes it really embarrassing that I missed it. (I guessed Derek Bailey/Cecil Taylor from the one disc they recorded together, Pleistozen Mit Wasser.)

  6. Phil –

    How funny. I figured for sure you’d get it. I recently ran across your Jazziz piece about Tyner and it was one of the things that inspired picking that track! I guess it speaks to how unlikely the piece is, even for those who’ve heard it before.

  7. Pi sale is most welcome… have taken advantage of it twice already and am contemplating a third… cheers Yulun!

  8. Great tracks! Never thought I’d want to hear These Foolish Things again but I was wrong. A nice sense of off-kilter cool and I can hear the Monk comparison, too.

    Ghosts didn’t hit me at first but on second spin it’s pretty… heart-stopping, actually. The heart of the song is still beating in there even if (because?) the ghosts now sound bulemic.

    Are other Ribot joints this good?

  9. A huge fan of Ribot. Yes, many more are this good. I’d suggest Rootless Cosmopolitans and Saints as places to start. And if you can find a copy of Requiem for What’s His Name, that’s pretty great, too.

  10. Chaboy Ribot has always had the ear for the composer. His cover of “Ghosts” is a recognition of Ayler’s compositional strength.

    P E A C E


  11. Mr. Ribot discusses the business of live and recorded musics…

    Click on the orange.

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