Review: Marc Ribot Trio’s ‘Live at the Village Vanguard’ hails giants


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”

(Pi Recordings)

3 and 1/2 stars