12.1.2011, Oak Cliff
However, tonight my sweetie 'n' I did traipse over to Oak Cliff to check out Mark Growden and Marc Ribot at the Kessler Theater. Terry and Hickey will be sad to hear that the BBQ joint next door from the Kess closed its doors last night, but we had dinner at Norma's, which is always a delight, and I ran into Tony Sims, who sounds not averse to performing on one of our "Improvised Silence" gigs at the Cellar next year (assuming management doesn't get cold feet and pull the plug), and graciously laid on me a DVD of the Sex Pistols' performance at the Bronco Bowl in '78, and a coupla noise CD-R's, including one he taped off KNON when he was 13, wa-a-ay back in the '80s.
Mark Growden almost made me cry with a new song he performed acapella, inspahrd by the recent passing of his grandmother and operating off the phrase "Memory my fading/fickle/feathered friend." It's part of a song cycle in progress but might just wind up on Mark's next New Orleans album (the one after the still-unreleased In Velvet).
Marc Ribot is quite a different proposition as a solo performer than as a sideman (which is how I know him best, from his recorded appearances with Waits, Costello, Zorn, et al.). He opened his set with his most challenging material -- 17 minutes of extrapolations on Albert Ayler's "Holy Holy Holy" -- and worked his way back to more lyrical stuff (a cover of his former Lounge Lizards bandleader John Lurie's "Blow Job"). Ribot has prodigous technique but isn't afraid of accidents or "bad" sounds (as Kessler talent curator Jeff Liles points out, Ribot will hammer away at mistakes until they become part of the piece). Other set highlights included an emotionally intense abstraction on Coltrane's "Dearly Beloved," a romp through Bix Beiderbecke's "Singing the Blues," and a ragged-but-right Ribot vocal on an evocative original unknown to me.
Production manager Paul Quigg makes every performer that graces the room sound stunning. The Kess is probably even a greater _listening_ venue than Caravan of Dreams was back in the day, for it's managed by folks that have a sense of proportion, as well as impeccable taste. Too bad somebody didn't tell the _chatty_ folks behind us, whom I was tempted to ask if they could talk louder, since I couldn't make out their conversation over Ribot's playing. A minor blip in an otherwise stellar evening.