October 30, 2011 7:15 pm

Marc Ribot, Bishopsgate Institute, London

Laurie Anderson and Elvis Costello are among the high-profile artists who have benefited from Marc Ribot’s close control and stinging attack. And the guitarist has long been an essential foil for John Zorn’s multi-genre mash-ups. Left to his own devices, Ribot chose the wide-open spaces of a pared-down trio, mixing improv with snippets from the John Coltrane and Albert Ayler back catalogue and adding a dollop of delta blues. The energy level was fearsome, and even the most expansive train of thought was delivered with concentrated venom.

Ribot opened with a primeval thrum, tossed off a riff and added a long, biting high note. Bassist Henry Grimes joined with percussive, scampering thuds and drummer Chad Taylor added the chatter and splash of free-form pulse. Ribot locked on a riff, worried it to abstraction and delivered a full-crunch chord signalling a meditative interlude of bowed bass and monastic bells.

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Ribot’s understanding of the sonic possibilities of the electric guitar is acute. There are twangy low notes and featherlight scuttles, ear-scraping highs and blasts of white noise. Slashing chords disintegrate into rapid downscale slurs, and the bent notes of the blues hover precisely. Grimes and Taylor were also adept, sounding sensuous and contributing to a fine-tuned sense of form so that even disrupted swing came with a pulse. Ayler’s “Spirits” was full-on, Coltrane’s “Sun Ship” meditative and a mad take on B.B. King followed the 12-bar form exactly but subverted everything within. The double encore burst a gypsy-jazz spin on Bix Beiderbecke’s “Singin’ the Blues” into smithereens and finished with Coltrane’s intense “Dearly Beloved”.

The evening opened with short sets from pianist Matthew Bourne and the some-way-to-go cello and vocal duo Mayming. Bourne’s four vignettes included an imaginative thumping inside the piano, but even this receded into the memory after the intensity of Ribot’s trio.

4 stars

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