Ribot vs The Sound of Philadelphia
And yet, at the same time, mindful of what often happens with tribute records, which is what in some ways this is, a competing thought also arose: everybody’s looking for a concept, might this one be too clever for its own good?
One time through The Young Philadelphians however and any doubts were extinguished. Here was a combination of accessible, ultra-familiar material twisted in new ways by Ribot’s ever vital, always surprising gifts for phrasing and tones, combined with a rhythm section made up of two Philly natives, bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and drummer G. Calvin Weston, who were also members of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time band. Add a second guitar player, Mary Halvorson, who has a much different style from Ribot’s, and the fact that there would be vocals (!) of some sort, strings (but of course!) and this seemed extremely interesting to say the least.
The key of course was the material, tunes like “Love TKO,” which was a hit for former Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes frontman Teddy Pendergrass and other numbers that were on the charts at the same time, back in the '70s, like the Ohio Players' “Love Rollercoaster” and Van McCoy’s “The Hustle,” are crazy easy to love and have hooks that are still capable of raising the dead.
Happily, as with most things Ribot, the whole thing, while full of loose ends and ideas that did not quite work and had to be backed out of, is a huge success. The entire seven-track session, very well recorded live at Tokyo’s Club Quattro, slides into a groove after a few songs and stays comfortably there, the massed talents of all present adding new textures and angles to everything, while still keeping what was best about the songs in the first place. The first impression, after marveling over the instrumental firepower on display, is how much there was in these onetime radio hits left to dig out and expand upon. But let’s not overthink this one. This project is also about a bunch of open-minded jazz cats stretching out and, as Ribot shouts out at the beginning of “Love Rollercoaster," "It’s time to get down!”
Speaking of that track, with a trio of string players sawing away, the track stays true to the original for a while before slowly drifting into a Ribot solo, braided and curled by effects pedals, before returning to a hard-charging jam. Just as he does with his fusion power trio, Ceramic Dog, the versatile Ribot leads the proceedings with his unmistakable instrumental voice. The track streamed below, “Do It Anyway You Wanna,” was written by Leon Huff and became a gold single for the group People’s Choice in 1975.