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Don’t Even Try to Pin Marc Ribot’s Music Down

Marc Ribot’s musical career spans multiple decades, and even more sounds. His lush guitar riffs have played with everyone from Tom Waits and John Zorn to Elvis Costello and Norah Jones. This week, for the first time in his storied career, Tigertail Productions brings Marc Ribot to Miami for a solo concert at Miami-Dade County Auditorium.

Celebrated not just for his immense talent, but also for the wide diversity in his musical repertoire, over the past three decades Ribot has released over 20 albums ranging from rock, jazz, and even two Cuban son albums. “I don’t know if I’m diverse so much as nervous or impatient. Although I’ve done a bunch of different kinds of music, I don’t see myself as just kind of running around, trying to acquire genres,” he explains.

“I’ve been attracted to a single kind of energy and I’ve found it in several different places when I was starting out. I still find it in a lot of rock music,” he continues. “I found it and heard it in a lot of the bands I heard at CBGBs when I first moved back to New York in the late 1970s, I heard it in the music of Arsenio Rodriguez. I heard it when I was working with “Brother” Jack McDuff and his funky jazz organ group. I’m attracted to music that has a certain visceral energy, and I can’t exactly define it, but I know it when I hear it.”

A musician to his core, Ribot spends time each day practicing his craft. “I try to devote some time to music every day, and I try to have the loosest possible parameters about what that means,” Ribot offers with a laugh. “Nine-tenths of the practice of music is figuring out not how to play, but why, you know? So much great stuff has already been played, it’s all there on records, so why, why should you have the nerve to think you can add to that?”

Despite his protestations, nerve Ribot has in spades, or perhaps just an abundance of natural curiosity that keeps him going; keeps him creating wildly eclectic music. He laments never having worked with James Brown and talks about the possibility of working with some friends to develop a rhythm section to create tracks for hip hop. “It’s part of the world of R&B, its groove, it’s where I originally came out of.”

As for what Miami has to look forward to? The program will include both acoustic and electric guitar sets, a taste of Ribot’s many styles as well as some of his signature improvisation. “When I play these things, I try to use what I play as kind of …. I try to feed off it, use what I play as the springboard for improvising,” he says.

“I know that may seem self-indulgent to people who haven’t understood, who haven’t spent a lot of time with improvised music, but think of it like this: it’s kind of like getting a tailor-made suit. The improvisations are always shaped by the place and situation that I’m in, so think of it as a custom performance.”

– Rebekah Lanae Lengel, 

Tigertail Productions presents Marc Ribot, Friday at 8:30 p.m.; Miami-Dade County Auditorium On.Stage Black Box, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami. Tickets: $25 general admission, $50 for VIP (priority entrance and table seating), and $20 for seniors and students with ID; or 305 324 4337.
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