By Frank Alkyer | Published July 2021
Just to be clear, I love the work of Marc Ribot. He’s a guitarist and artist who takes music wherever the muse goes, diving into jazz, punk, blues, downtown, inside, outside, all sides, avant garde, spoken word. He’s the “beyond” in DownBeat’s tagline, “Jazz, Blues & Beyond.” That’s especially true with his longtime trio Ceramic Dog with Shahzad Ismaily on bass and keyboards, and Ches Smith on drums, percussion and electronics.
With the group’s latest offering, Hope, we find Ribot in the mood to talk. Take, for instance, the opening number, “B-Flat Ontology,” from Hope, Ceramic Dog’s latest recording. It’s a bit of punk-ass, talking blues with lyrics visceral and true questioning the meaning of fame and the fawning over fame. Or the reggae-esque “Nickelodeon,” a free-flowing, summertime jam with New York-hip lyrics of epic nonsensical joy. Fans of Ribot’s Los Cubanos Postizos records will connect on this one.
Hope is not a jazz record, other than its anything-goes sensibility, but Ribot has credentials as a guitarist and artist who can morph into any style and still come out sounding only like himself, which is central to the jazz aesthetic. “Wanna” offers the flavor of reminiscent of the Pixies at their best. “The Activist” slams with all the rage of Bohemian-era Lenny Bruce. “Bertha The Cool” (my favorite title) is what it might sound like if Ribot jumped inside George Benson’s body for a tune. When saxophonist Darius Jones jumps in to guest on “They Met In The Middle,” the energy skyrockets with angst, only to give way to the calming, then epic beauty of “The Long Goodbye.” Ribot rounds out this great set with “Maple Leaf Rage,” which shows off his guitar genius, and “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” an offbeat ballad with plenty of overdrive.
There’s a great deal of anger here, fueled by Ribot’s concerns over COVID, a president he despised, global warming and not being able to see the ones he loved due to the pandemic.
It’s a raw, honest album, one most of us can absolutely understand. It’ll make you want to throw a fist in the air and shout, “Hell, yes!”