Marc Ribot - "Spiritual Unity"
[PI Recordings, www.pirecordings.com]

Guitarist Marc Ribot has tried in the past to pay homage to the genius of saxophonist Albert Ayler. You need not go any further than listen to his interpretation of "Ghosts" [from his "Shrek" album]. While his head was in the right place, it was probably the choice of musicians that just didn't glue when that record was released just over a decade ago. We all learn from our mistakes, which is why "Spiritual Unity" is such a refreshing change of direction. Ribot felt that Henry Grimes' resurgence a couple of years back was a perfect moment to put together an Ayler-tribute. He chose Grimes literally [or for the sake of adding a link to history to his quartet] as he was the force and the backbone of Ayler's early groups. Along with Grimes, the quartet is completed by trumpeter Roy Campbell and percussionist Chad Taylor. Is this band ever a powerhouse! Proceedings start off with the only Ribot original here "Invocation". Very slowly - as in a good book - the pieces of the puzzle fall into their places. Ribot adds thick layers of intense guitar racket, while Chad Taylor pounds his cymbals into sparkling, high-pitched auras. Roy Campbell has a challenge laid out in front of him [so little room to manoeuvre in these tight musical waters], but still his solos manage to excite, as he shouts with bliss on top of the other four. Then, there is Henry Grimes, who is allowed an all too brief solo that shatters the room, almost as if to say, "look at me, I'm back for good". The remainder of the disc only gets better as the quartet reinterprets four Ayler originals. To be honest, I'm as convinced by the energy and total freedom of "Spirits" as I am of the shimmering, slow-tempo beauty of "Saints". While I found Ribot's playing on Shrek irritating at times, here - even at his most ferocious - he's a joy to hear. You know this man has found a purpose in life. This is a complete package. A quartet working in unison is a rare commodity these days. Without blowing things out of proportion, I think Marc Ribot has just hit a high point in his musical journey.

Tom Sekowski


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