|Henry Grimes at Café Oto. Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved|
Marc Ribot, Henry Grimes, Chad Taylor
(Café Oto, 15/16 October 2013; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)
Two nights at Café Oto by master guitarist Marc Ribot’s trio featuring veteran bass virtuoso, Henry Grimes, and the sprightly Chad Taylor on drums, proved to be intense, hair-raising and joyful roller-coasters. Suffused with subversive wit, ingrained with an irreverently articulated technical agility and bonded by the trio’s intuitive internal communication, there was an underlying current of respect for the groundbreakers, the voices in the jazz wilderness who made indelible impressions on the music. The first night’s repertoire leant towards John Coltrane, notably to ‘A Love Supreme‘, and the second to Albert Ayler, in all his fervent glory, but by no means exclusively.
Ribot made a stunning solo debut at Café Oto in the spring, Grimes has memorably performed twice at the venue, and the trio made their powerful London concert debut at Bishopsgate two years ago. The mouthwatering prospect of finding them on Café Oto’s intimate stage fully lived up to its promise.
Ribot acknowledges his off-beam relation with tradition, which he put rather succinctly in a recent Village Voice interview: “I always figured that I was a jazz musician in the same sense that Cindy Sherman was a fashion model.” Who else could get away with playing pieces by Coltrane, Ayler, Dylan, a classic from My Fair Lady, a Brubeck polka and hefty dollops of JB-flecked funk, resolutely avoiding any hints of stasis or interpretative complacency? None of which was name-checked by Ribot – it’s not his style.
Ribot’s playing is unashamedly shot through with a dose of 60s/70s electric vernacular. Over the two nights, resonances with Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies trio, and a flicker of his ‘Star Spangled Banner‘, rubbed shoulders with the fevered, spiritual rough-and-tumble and military marching pace of the Ayler canon (drawing on Ayler’s self-styled ‘energy’ playing), kicking off the last of their four sets with a bright, classic jazz take on ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to her Face‘ and winding down on both evenings with a plaintive rendering of Dylan’s little-known ‘Lay Down your Weary Tune‘, vocals by Ribot.
Grimes matched Ribot’s ‘no compromise’ stance with dignified humility. No matter where Ribot strayed, hunched with obsessive concentration over his instrument – careening off at sharp angles, combining timorous acoustic restraint with a ferocious pace that would explode into a Branca-like orchestral onslaught – Grimes maintained a softly-hued, rock-solid undertow, his gentle, flowing phrasing complemented by Taylor’s formidable expressive momentum and invention. Taylor flipped from lightly phased assaults on the metal fabric of the drum kit to flourishes of brushes, shells and bells and scrubbing of skins, resourceful at every turn. Constantly seeking out the textures and rhythms to suit the moment, Grimes and Taylor meshed perfectly with Ribot’s serrated slithering from genre to genre – his oblique, ever-shifting sightline took in jazz, rock and folk, and more, including an impassioned blues on the second night, Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Commit a Crime‘, that drew hollers of recognition from the crowd.
Grimes’s deeply grained bass solos and grinding bowed excursions delved so low as to imbue the auditorium with a sense of the deep peace that might be experienced in a bathysphere. Grimes also turned to violin, his first instrument as a child, with a juddering, abstract style that fittingly brought to mind Ayler’s violinist Michel Samson, as Grimes was one of Ayler’s favourite collaborators.
A perpetual exercise in connections and tensions, the trio’s combined energy and acuity brought the warm glow of a private party concert to Dalston. To maintain this level of intensity over two nights was extraordinary. There were no concessions – to anything! Very special, indeed.