From Samois Sur Seine to New Orleans, via Brooklyn

Today I’ have the opportunity to talk about Three giants of music, in one single post. How cool is that ?!

Allen Toussaint is an icon of New Orleans music. Producer, songwriter, pianist, singer, arranger … he is a major figure of popular music coming from NOLA during the past 50 years. If you don’t know him, check him out, exceptional musician and gentleman.

Django Reinhardt needs no introduction does he ?

Marc Ribot might be more of an underground hero. Known for his participation to Tom Waits albums in the mid-80’s and for being the guitarist in many avant-garde project lead by John Zorn, he is also a leader of free-jazz, proto-punk or fake-cuban bands, he has several solo guitar album out, and is also a sought after musician for sessions. Not many musicians can claim to have played with John Zorn and Robert Plant, Diana Krall and Marianna Faithfull.

In 2008 was released a new album by Allen Toussaint “The Bright Mississippi”. Teamed with a non-new-orleans band, Toussaint plays jazz tunes, mostly from New Orleans musicians, but not only.

The guest are all famous jazz musicians in their own right: Joshua Redman , Don Byron, Nicholas Payton (wait, he’s from NOLA, they messed up the concept!!!), Brad Mehldau. Modern masters of a creative mainstream jazz.

The choice of the rhythm section is worth a post on itself: coming from a non-strictly jazz background, David Piltch and Jay Bellerose may not the obvious choice to complement this Mainstream jazz dream team. They both have a background in jazz but also in rock, country and pop. They are a great team, and regularly play together (on project by Joe Henry, producer here, or on several Madeleine Peyroux albums).

Marc Ribot is to be considered as part of the rhythm section on this album : he has plenty solo spots, but he is not just a guest on one song. And he has a background of playing with Joe Henry. No the record company choice.

To bring Ribot on the acoustic guitar can be surprise to some. It’s a strike of genius from the producer. While remaining true to himself -and his edgy, punky side-, Ribot can play it all : jazz, swing, blues. It’s the first album where I notice him playing slide, and he pulls it off brilliantly. The duet version of “Solitude” is a moment of grace.

One song really struck me: their take on Django’s “Blue Drag”. Quite far from New Orleans, it doesn’t sound out of context at all on this album.

The guitar solo that Ribot play is a master piece: he manages to channel both the spirit of Django and the blues side of New Orleans, and still remaining recognizable as Marc Ribot. He plays an acoustic guitar, probably an archtop, with thick strings and obviously no amplification, a very old school type of sound, closer to Lonnie Johnson than Charlie Christian.

Listen how the solo starts bluesy, then wittingly goes in to a Django-esque more chromatic syncopated arpeggio. Then some more bluesy double stops, then a phrase in octaves -Django used lots of octaves phrasing- then again goes to a quite chromatic descending line that is neither blues, nor Django-esque. Then there’s this fast bop-ish line played with just a little bit of sloppiness so it doesn’t sound like Pat Martino. And it never sounds like Ribot is jumping from unrelated ideas and styles. All those influences are integrated in his style wether he’s playing avant-garde or acoustic jazz. It’s quite impressive really.

I let you finish to analyze the rest of the solo. In case you need some help, you can purchase my transcription here. You won’t regret to spend some time listening to this song believe me.

Thanx for listening and reading, see you soon for some more. Take good care.

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