Ned Rothenberg and Marc Ribot at The Stone 12/6/17 (by Noah Berman)


PERSONNEL: Ned Rothenberg (A Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxophone), Marc Ribot (Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar)

SET LIST: Improvisations #1-5 (Rothenberg/Ribot)

HIGHLIGHTS: In the midst of a particularly dense flurry of notes, Ribot went back to Bach with a quote from Bourrée in E minor.

For the second night of his week-long residency at The Stone, Ned Rothenberg was joined by Marc Ribot for five improvised duets. Rothenberg’s approach is informed in part by Eric Dolphy and Jimmy Giuffre, woodwind specialists who synthesized free jazz and 20th-century classical music in the early 1960s. His choice of the bass clarinet and A clarinet for this set was a nod to Dolphy and Giuffre, respectively. Ribot is a musical omnivore who filters his diverse interests through a playing style influenced by Jimi Hendrix (electric blues guitar and use of electronics) and Derek Bailey (non-idiomatic improvisation that emphasizes idiomatic aspects of the guitar itself).

Beginning with the A clarinet and acoustic guitar, Rothenberg and Ribot chose a different pair of instruments for each of the first four improvisations. They have each integrated a personal vocabulary of extended techniques into their playing, allowing for a variety of timbral and expressive possibilities. For Rothenberg, these largely had to do with manipulation of overtone/harmonic content over time, sometimes creating multiple discernible pitches, and percussive slap-tonguing effects. Ribot created squeaky sounds from the body of his acoustic guitar, and used EBow, slide, and a volume pedal in various combinations to increase the sonic potential of his electric. Musically, any technique or reference was in play. Diatonic and blues tonalities, pulse and repetition were contrasted with atonality/noise, rubato and development. Ribot’s direct quote of J.S. Bach was an especially clear demonstration of postmodernism in a freely improvised context. While orchestration, timbre, and musical devices created sonic variety throughout the set, these four improvisations were formally consistent, juxtaposing several contrasting movements, each exploring a few of these sounds and ideas.

The fifth improvisation elegantly tied the entire set together by turning this strategy on its head. Instead of pursuing another unexplored instrumental pair, the duo returned to the A clarinet and acoustic guitar. Ribot offered a twist on his opening musical gesture, a patiently repeating dissonant guitar chord, with a similarly insistent sonority, in this case derived from E minor. With these elements back in play, the set closed with an extended meditation on a single idea in the form of a tonal, rubato ballad.

— by Noah Berman