This weekend I was lucky enough to be able to go to New York and attend the last two nights of the Marc Ribot Trio residency at the Village Vanguard. They had played their first Vanguard residency last summer, and I attended some of those shows as well, so I had a pretty good idea of just how special these concerts might be. The Vanguard – while not an ideal venue at first glance (it’s crowded, has weird sight-lines, etc.) – is practically oozing jazz history from the walls, and when you’re there you can’t help but feel the weight of nearly eighty years of performances by jazz icons like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Charles Mingus. The audiences tend to be peppered with music tourists who want to experience what may be the most famous jazz club in the world – I sat near two different people who appeared to have no idea who the band was, and were just there because “it’s the Vanguard!” I guess there are upsides and downsides to that as a musician – you can win over some new jazz-loving fans, but you can also face some skepticism if you are not a straight-up jazz player. But the experience as an audience member is like – well, if you’ve ever seen a movie or TV show with some kind of downtown smoky basement jazz club, it was probably based on the Village Vanguard. It’s like that. And the sound is excellent.
The Marc Ribot Trio consists of Marc Ribot on guitar (naturally!), Henry Grimes on bass, and Chad Taylor on drums. Ribot is an incredibly versatile guitarist who plays everything from rock to jazz to classical to punk to surf guitar, and has performed with a very wide variety of musicians both live and in studio. He also has a number of his own bands and projects (Marc Ribot Trio/Spiritual Unity, Cubanos Postizos, Ceramic Dog, etc.), all of which are worth checking out. Chad Taylor is a drummer who has played with a long list of impressive jazz and indie rock collaborators, from Cooper-Moore to Iron & Wine to Eugene Chadbourne. Henry Grimes has perhaps the most unusual life story of any musician I’ve ever seen – he was an important up-and-coming young bass player in the 50s and 60s, playing with people like Albert Ayler and Sonny Rollins, but he dropped out of the scene completely and suddenly. No one really knew where he was, and for many years people assumed he was dead. In 2002 a particularly determined fan discovered that he was living in California, no longer performing after being forced to give up his instrument some 35 years previously due to bad luck and finances. With help from some fellow musicians and fans he was able to procure an instrument and start performing again… and in spite of all those years away, he is still amazing.
I got there early enough on Saturday night to be the first person in the door, so I was able to snag one of the best seats in the house. I misjudged a little bit because when the band came on stage it turned out that Henry Grimes’ bass was blocking my view of Chad Taylor, but on the plus side I had what I believe to be the only seat in the entire place where you could sneak perfect photos of Marc Ribot from underneath the table where the camera wouldn’t bother anyone:
I didn’t plan it that way, but sometimes life just works out in your favor like that! I only took a couple of flashless photos and a short video clip for my blog readers, because it really wasn’t (more…)