MARC RIBOT is a gifted guitarist; his parts may sound like engineering experiments in a junkyard but they have added a crucial edge to records by Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, the Lounge Lizards, Marianne Faithfull and Allen Ginsberg. As a bandleader, though, Ribot comes up a bit short, for his new debut album, "Rootless Cosmopolitans," is all edge and no center. Ribot's "blues noise" experiments, as he calls them, add a valuable subversiveness to a real song, but if you remove the song, all that's left is the noise.
Ribot has surrounded himself with some underrated talents for his new project -- most notably clarinetist Don Byron (who has worked with everyone from David Murray to the Klezmer Conservatory Band), bassist Melvin Gibbs from Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society and drummer Richie Schwarz from the Steve Reich Ensemble. Unfortunately, Ribot has encouraged them to follow the avant-garde Manhattan notion that their every random impulse and experimental whim should be followed and preserved. It's the kind of freedom that leads to self-indulgent cleverness rather than revelation.
Most of the tracks are simple vamps composed by Ribot, but also included are standards by Sammy Cahn, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison and Duke Ellington. Like Humpty-Dumpty, these standards are "deconstructed" by Ribot's rootless cosmopolitans but never put back together again.
MARC RIBOT -- "Rootless Cosmopolitans" (Island). Appearing Friday at d.c. space.