REVIEW: Marc Ribot at Cafe Oto

Marc Ribot at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved 
Marc Ribot
(Cafe Oto, 20 March 2015. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Marc Ribot is a dangerous guitarist. In the first of his two sold out gigs at Cafe Oto he fashioned a virtuosic, sequence of disparate, fractured deconstructions of familiar repertoire, in an impromptu, multi-faceted journey which repeatedly stopped short of landing in any comfort zone.

Slumped over his battered, acoustic guitar he slipped and slid across many of the idioms which he has absorbed and hard-wired in to his system over the years - folk and country blues, pioneering jazz, hard blues and angry rock, classical Cuban and Spanish. An unsettling, discordant edge took hold from the start, a mirrored refraction of troubled times, with strums and metalled, vibrating harmonics undermining glimpses of gentler, melodic chord sequences.

With both hands on the fretboard and a near foetal attachment to his guitar, Ribot yielded a revealing insight into his musical personality. Like saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, he continually worried his chosen instrument to dig deep in to the driving forces of his relentless quest.

With a refreshed spring to his step in the second set, the romantic charms of the samba fell away to tunings and detunings and the resumption of Ribot’s asymmetrical attack.

Ayler's gigantic leaps and Coltrane's giant footsteps were ever-present. Immersed in the complex machinations of Coltrane's take on Dearly Beloved he pulled back from the brink to pick out a ragtime and flip over to what he jokingly reflected, was 'the world's slowest Bachata', bringing his fond embrace of Cuban flavours to the fore.

Another obsession, film scores, percolated through to add further weight to Ribot's magpie medley with a preview of his soundtrack to the as-yet-unreleased movie Under the Highline. The resonant familiarity of The Shadow of Your Smile was dissected and spliced with a radical take on Happy Birthday (maybe an oblique, celebratory anthem for one of the audience) and the gravelly pounding weight of a Muddy Waters riff.

In the hear-a-pin-drop setting of Cafe Oto, Ribot's intense, heartfelt commitment invited not only the closest of listening but also allowed scrutiny of his technical approach, offering a minor spectacle as well as a rare, transportative musical experience.

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