Using a trio to interpret the music of Cuban composer Arsenio Rodriguez, guitarist Marc Ribot left plenty of room for the tangy side of his playing to enter the confines of songs written for big bands. Even as he stuck to material from his new album, “Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Positivos,” the distinctive guitar sounds he has brought to the recordings of Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and the Lounge Lizards ran amok.
Seated and alternating between an electric hollow body and an acoustic 12-string altered to approximate the Cuban tres, Ribot was highly charged throughout the 65-minute set, generally feeding off E.J. Rodrguez’s tantalizing rhythms created on timbales and congas. Ribot gets a skittish sound that can set the nerves on edge and elsewhere he’s thunderous, but generally he aims for a sound not unlike the classic jazz guitarists of the 1950s. Fortunately, there’s a technically sound traditionalist at work here, not someone intent on strictly spacing out.
Atlantic stands to do well with the disc as Cuban styles, particularly the son, are being embraced on these shores. “Cubanos Positivos,” which translates to prosthetic Cubans, is more homage than reproduction, embraceable for listeners regardless of which side of the Latin-American fence they’re coming from. More so than his other albums, the disc is accessible from start to finish.
In the trio concert setting, without the many guests that help give the disc heft and density, Ribot worked overtime to fill the air, creating a thick wall of high-pitched sound. At one point, bassist Brad Jones bowed a solo that captured the essence of wind sound effects from horror films. Here and there, the sonic workouts entered a period of questionability, but at their best, Ribot got it to come off as an instrumental version of one of Tom Waits’ albums on Island. And that’s always tasty.