This overlong evening was a night of contrasting moods
– and somewhat shattered expectations. However, it says much about the
contemporary jazz scene today that the warm up act (even one as good
as Terry Edwards) was so very much better than the main one,
Marc Ribot, a near-legend for guitar aficionados.
Edwards’ own compositions display a symbiotic virtuosity,
but they are hampered by backing tracks which sound like industrial
garbage. Their effect is more intrusive than complimentary, resonant
of apocalyptic sound space – and an invasive one at that. However, he
came into his own when playing not his own work but that of Thelonious
Monk, and gave an incandescent performance changing his saxophone into
an octave-laden voice. Colour and tone were palpable to the touch.
Marc Ribot was much more experimental in his solo set
– and not always for the better. This was certainly eclectic playing
– slightly different from his past work with the Lounge Lizards, Marianne
Faithfull and even Tom Waits. There were pieces which reflected his
work with Los Cubanos Postizos (The Fake Cubans), and these, despite
Ribot having never really been part of the Cuban music scene, were highly
effective. John Zorn's Book of Heads (Book 17, in this case)
provided one moment of purely inventive, improvisatory playing but it
is questionable (particularly for the members of the audience who kept
leaving) whether the purely experimental work he employed in other Zorn
pieces was working its magic. The extended technique takes most of the
sounds people find most objectionable and uses them in an entirely new
creative process – dissonance, but without the edge of a Stockhausen.
Creating a false bridge with a pencil or screwdriver underneath the
string, rubbing balloons against the steel strings, scraping the strings
with a coiled spring, removing the string entirely from the saddle or
popping balloons had the effect of creating ugly sounds almost as invasive
as Edwards’ backing tracks.
The constant buzzing later in the evening from his
speakers was irrational given that Ribot deplores this type of interaction
in his gigs. It was difficult to make the jump between intention and
accident. I, for one, would have been happier with a bit more Django
Rheinhardt and a little less Zorn.