Titling an album "Live at the Village Vanguard" surely isn't something taken lightly by jazz artists. The storied Greenwich Village jazz club has hosted a wealth of almost mythic live recordings from the likes of Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Albert Ayler and John Coltrane.
For the ever-restless Marc Ribot, it's Ayler and Coltrane who are the giants on his mind here. A searing venture through the avant garde that leaves room for graceful melody, Ribot's latest pays vivid tribute not just to a classic venue but also to the possibilities of the guitar trio. Ribot, a downtown New York City fixture who has collaborated with Tom Waits, John Zorn and Neko Case, has assembled a fierce band of drummer Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground Duo) and bassist Henry Grimes, who backed Ayler at the Vanguard for his 1967 live record.
Some of Coltrane's last recordings get a welcome airing with the prayer-like "Dearly Beloved" unfurling from Ribot atop a stormy rhythm and a jagged yet nimble run through "Sun Ship." A few gentle dips into the pop songbook with "Old Man River" and "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" offer welcome breathers, but the free-blowing spirit of Ayler casts the largest shadow. At almost 20 minutes, "Bells" sprawls through a lush solo from Grimes balanced by Ribot's alternately delicate and searing runs. Midway through, a triumphant march coalesces, breaks apart and reemerges brighter and more urgent than ever. It would be wise to follow. (Ribot performs Monday, May 26, at Largo with his barbed avant-rock trio Ceramic Dog.)
Marc Ribot Trio
"Live at the Village Vanguard"
3 and 1/2 stars