Marc Ribot is no stranger to Montreal, though most of his appearances have been in the smaller venues of Divan Orange and La Sala Rossa. In one of their most daring bookings this year, the Jazz Fest asked Ribot to host three nights of their Invitation Series.
I've been a fan of his los Cubanos Postizos for nearly a decade, since the two albums conceived as a tribute to Arsenio Rodrigues were initially released. Ribot turned Theatre Jean-Duceppe into a punky son party for nearly two hours straight, including two loudly demanded encores. The band was comprised of EJ Rodrigues on percussion & Brad Jones on bass, the only two original Cubanos postizos, along with Anthony Coleman on B3 and Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez on drums. El Negro was restrained for first few tunes then unleashed a solo full of double-kick pyrotechnics to which Ribot deadpanned "that could get you into a lot of trouble back home." It felt like friends jamming on these classic Cuban songs in a living room - loose and energetic, with a jagged intensity that Ribot brings to everything he plays. Slashing away on a Fender Jazzmaster and a Gibson ES-style semi-hollow guitar, Ribot was in fine form. Jones eats tumbao for breakfast, belting out coros alongside conguero Rodrigues. Words I never thought I'd type: the B3 was way too loud where I sat (granted, I was in front of a speaker). There were moments where Coleman played the organ pianistically, with his foot off the volume pedal and playing locked-octave lines that came out shrill and overpowering. When he rode the volume pedal (the way the instrument breathes), it was much more dynamic and he proved to be a great foil for Ribot. Rodrigues was the MC for most of the evening, introducing the musicians and egging on the other players.
Montreal-based MC Boogat provided a great, energetic set of hip-hop cumbia. For this outdoor show on the Groove stage, he was in the company of DJ/producer Poirier, Latin hip-hop crew Heavy Soundz, fellow MC Face-T, and percussion maestro Kiko Osorio. Boogat digs into the rhythm with his flow and the set was paced really well.
The Soul Rebels Brass Band rocked L'Astral last year, but the mix of drums and brass wasn't properly served by the sound system of the TD mainstage. The vocal mics weren't clear for their vocal chants and rapping. Sound aside, the grooves were there in abundance, including killer soulful covers of Katy Perry's "California Gurls," Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" and the Eurhythmics' "Sweet Dreams." In the words of another brass band (the Dirty Dozen), "Ain't nothing but a party!"