Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos
It’s hard to think of too many guitarists who can move as easily between disparate styles while retaining an instantly recognizable sound as Marc Ribot. After staking turf as a vital sideman for artists like Wilson Pickett, Elvis Costello, John Zorn, and Tom Waits, Ribot has blazed a jagged path directed only by his own perverse muse. In 1990 he released an album under the name Rootless Cosmopolitans, as apt a term for his restless aesthetic as anything we could come up with. He’s an activist for musician’s causes, and his clear-eyed politics have complemented music of equal directness, whether interpreting the work of Albert Ayler, vintage Philly soul, or his early mentor, the Haitian guitarist Frantz Casseus.
One of his most enduring projects is Los Cubanos Postizos (the Prosthetic Cubans), a band formed to salute and mutate the compositions of the brilliant Cuban bandleader and tres player Arsenio Rodriguez whose recordings from the 1940s modernized the sound of classic son. While Ribot’s group made two stellar albums more than two decades ago, the combo has occasionally arisen from long periods of inactivity, and this rare appearance helps end an eight-year slumber.
The guitarist has never been one to tackle things straight-on, and he approaches the music of Rodriguez from numerous perspectives, compounding the driving rhythm of his subject’s playing with stinging dissonance, clanking distortion, and hypnotic repetition. As the Chicago Reader wrote of his approach, “ The most distinctive aspects of his style–his knotty phrasing and his dirty tone–have never sounded more appropriate than in these interpretations of Rodriguez’s gritty, lyrical playing of the tres (a guitar with three pairs of strings, each pair tuned to a different note).” Ribot’s wiry sound grinds and grooves within classic Afro-Cuban rhythms, but depending on his mood the can slash against the patterns or glide along with them, sometimes embracing a lilting vibe, sometimes dropping disruptive accents or pure noise bombs. His ardor for Rodriguez’s music is palpable in every context, and that zeal quality only heightens the infectious fun and chaos of the band’s galvanic performances.