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July/August 2005

Marc Ribot, Roy Campbell, Henry Grimes, Chad Taylor
Spiritual Unity
Pi Recordings

A true restless spirit, guitarist Marc Ribot has tackled everything from avant noise to Cuban music to session work with Elvis Costello and Serge Gainsbourg. On Spiritual Unity, Ribot expands the breadth of his discography once again, this time paying tribute to the self-described Holy Ghost, tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler. Ribot, who was born during Eisenhower's first term, claims that he has studied the free-jazz icon for decades. But what emerges on Spiritual Unity sounds less like by-the-numbers versioning than Ribot's own, rocked-up take on New Thing jazz. Granted, the rhythm section, comprised of bassist and Ayler alumnus Henry Grimes and drummer Chad Taylor, create turbulent waves worthy of the subject's best recordings. And trumpeter Roy Campbell, like Ayler's onetime foil Don Cherry, offers tight, melodic counterpoint to the constant sturm und drung. Still, Ribot will never be mistaken for anyone else: The nimble-fingered six-stringer is forever picking energetic, angular lines that weave a half-century's worth of rock, jazz, and whatsis into every measure. As such, it is a joy to hear him in such a freewheeling context-a setting that gives him ample space to stretch out and explore the ether.

Originally published in July/August 2005
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