MARC RIBOT Y LOS CUBANOS POSTIZOS
Chicago audiences have had the opportunity to hear a lot of genuine Cuban music in the last few years--from original son revivalists Sierra Maestra to modern masters like Los Van Van and Vocal Sampling--so why bother with a small New York combo that proudly calls itself "the fake Cubans"? Because authenticity be damned, Marc Ribot y los Cubanos Postizos (Atlantic) was one of last year's most consistently entertaining records. Guitarist Ribot can do many things well; he's made convincing contributions to work by Wilson Pickett, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, the Jazz Passengers, and John Zorn, among others. But in this tribute to the music of Cuban bandleader Arsenio Rodriguez, who brought a fuller, more orchestral sound to the traditional dance music called son, he may have found his calling. 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). Percussionists EJ and Robert Rodriguez (who aren't related to each other or Arsenio) lay down a dense bed of polyrhythms, while bassist Brad Jones (on leave from Ornette Coleman's Prime Time) spreads out hypnotic ostinatos; Ribot ranges freely but never completely abandons the groove or gets mired in sound for sound's sake--a tendency that's marred some of his previous work as a leader. Though there are a few tunes by Ribot and others, the album places due emphasis on Arsenio Rodriguez's indelibly graceful compositions, albeit in Ribot's inventive small-group conflations of the master's rich arrangements. The band's Chicago debut features organist Anthony Coleman and, filling in for Jones, sometime Bob Dylan bassist Tony Garnier. Saturday, 8:30 and 11:30 PM, the Note, 1565 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-0011. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Lisa Rinzler.