I have no hesitation saying Marc Ribot is one of the greatest guitarists alive today. I know of no other contemporary musician who manages to merge experimental ambition, raw gutbucket emotion, and unmistakable beauty like Ribot. A vast array of collaborative contexts over the course of his career have led Ribot to develop myriad original guitar sounds, from the free-skronking blues of his performances with Tom Waits to the electrified neo-classical klezmer of his work with John Zorn and much more.
Ahead of Ribot’s performance at the Cedar on Saturday, April 18 with David Hidalgo (of Los Lobos), it seemed appropriate to compile a playlist that attempts to at least scratch the surface of the legendary guitarist’s diverse body of work.
1. The Lounge Lizards – “Fat House” – Big Heart: Live in Toyko (1986)
Playing here with a top-form Lounge Lizards lineup, Ribot’s free-blues funk is a perfect representation of the jocular, disjointed, and visceral Downtown sound he would help define throughout the ’80s.
2. John Zorn – Live at Jazz in Marciac (2010)
One of the most fruitful collaborative relationships in either musician’s career has been the partnership between Marc Ribot and John Zorn. Ribot has played on everything from Zorn’s most outré compositions (“The Book of Heads”) to the “radical Jewish music” of his Masada songbook (as we see in the video above).
3. Marc Ribot Y Los Cubanos – “Postizo” – The Prosthetic Cubans (2000)
The music of Ribot’s Los Cubanos project may give us some clue as to what we can expect from his duet performance with Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo next Saturday at the Cedar. His distortion-laden take on Cuban music bursts with energy on this track and on nearly everything he’s put out with the band.
4. Marc Ribot (Solo Acoustic) – “Fat Man Blues” – Live at the Falcon in Marlboro, NY (2014)
In this breathtaking performance at a club called the Falcon in the small town of Marlboro, New York, we get a taste of one of Ribot’s subtler, more meditative takes on the blues.
5. Tom Waits – “Cold Water” – The Mule Variations (1999)
In a career that’s seen Tom Waits go from a lounge-rat court jester to a demented noise-making carny and everywhere in between, Ribot’s guitar has been one of the few consistent variables. His deep-in-the-pocket blues has always managed to keep Waits (somewhat) grounded in the basics of American popular music without dumbing anything down. Dig his solo here at around three minutes in.
6. Marco Cappelli – “And So I Went To Pittsburgh” – Extreme Guitar Project (2006)
Ribot’s remarkable talent for composition is on display with this tune, a cut from Italian guitarist Marco Cappelli’s album of guitar pieces written by a number of accomplished contemporary avant-garde composers.
7. Ceramic Dog – “Your Turn” – Your Turn (2013)
With bassist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith, Ceramic Dog is the closest Marc Ribot comes to playing straight up rock ‘n’ roll. On “Your Turn,” he’s out for blood with a blistering four minutes of hard-nosed, prog-inspired post-punk.
Marc Ribot performs at the Cedar on Saturday, April 18th alongside David Hidalgo at 8 pm.