A dozen years ago, too many downtown New Yorkers, guitarists mainly, favored deliberately clunky timing. The exemplar of this tic was Lounge Lizard, Jazz Passenger, and Rootless Cosmopolitan Marc Ribot, who could stammer at the strings like a first-week student trying to line up a C chord–a way, perhaps, to distance self and scene from the usual studied, big-LP-collection eclecticism. Ribot has set the clunk aside to back Elvis Costello or Marianne Faithfull or to front Los Cubanos Postizos, but it’s back on his new solo guitar outing, Saints (Atlantic), a collection of mostly covers ranging from “Go Down Moses” to “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” And it’s never made more sense than it does here: a slick jazz whiz like Joe Pass could cover simultaneous melody, bass, and harmony chores more deftly than Ribot on 1930’s “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You),” but the quaint material, elliptical runs, hesitations, and hints of stride bass all point to Thelonious Monk. Ribot still falls flat or strains himself sometimes, but it mostly works: he takes “St. James Infirmary” as a lurching march, piling gritty melody statements on top (his bends have never quite lost their garage accent), and on Ayler’s “Saints,” within seconds he suggests both Blind Willie Johnson’s stark attack and Alessandro Alessandroni goosing Morricone. There and elsewhere he also gets a plump and springy resonator-guitar tone that’s hard to resist. Love it when a hinky concept comes together. Friday, October 19, 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lisa Rinzler.