On the Honey

Richard Adams's "Under Oath," which sets Lewinsky's testimony from the Starr Report, had soprano Kristin Norderval, decked out in Monica-wear, singing a kind of "Ballad of Sexual Dependency" for the Clinton era. The colorful Dora Ohrenstein tackled Lewis Spratlan's hilarious "Vocalise With Duck," quacking noises provided by a clarinet mouthpiece. The same soprano also expertly pistoled the cunning linguistics of Eleanor Sandresky's witty, liberating "My Goddess."

Relief from the relentless ostinato patterns was provided by David Soldier's magical "Letter to Ausonius," with a moving text by Paulinius of Nola. Soldier created an exquisite pastiche of Franco-Flemish ars nova, with delicate yet funky polyphony. His faux Machaut glowed. However, the opening and closing megasongs, Thomas Adès's "Life Story" (a sleazy precursor of his opera Powder Her Face, based on a text by Tennessee Williams) and Anthony Davis's "Lost Moon Sisters," while ambitious and attractive at times, were too muddled and meandering, both in composition and performance, to make any impact—non sequiturs in Sequitur's otherwise unimpeachable sequence of quickies. —Robert Hilferty


Avant Guard

The ad for last Wednesday's Marc Ribot show at the Knit promised a "Django Reinhardt Invocation," but with Ribot and fellow experimentalist Eyvind Kang as the lead musicians, that could have meant just about anything. What it ended up meaning, though, was great jazz.

Despite Ribot's avant-garde pedigree, he doesn't bend tradition out of shape. The guitarist puts himself in the middle of a genre, finds people who can play the music with him, and adds touches of his own Downtown angularity. He's done that on his recent record with Los Cubanos Postizos, a lovely, lively, sharp-edged take on Cuban music.

Last week Ribot found himself in the middle of another intensely swinging folk genre: Reinhardt. Again, there were good musicians all around. Kang, a violinist and new-music kid, found himself playing the role of Reinhardt's most famous partner, Stephane Grappelli. Kang did a credible job; his playing was lyrical and not predictable, but his solos never rode the music, never took it over. Backing up were Joey Baron and Greg Cohen, the rhythm section for John Zorn's Masada. Their nimble, light-stepping way with a groove matched the songs perfectly. Baron was cracking up as usual, having a great time with his brushes, acting like this old-timey music was all a goof. But he was also swinging it with effortless precision.

The songs were done pretty straight: folk songs, dance songs, dark ballads, jazz at its most unvarnished. Ribot's guitar provided the center. He comped generously for Kang and duetted brilliantly with Baron. Only at a song's beginning or end did he bother with abstraction, and even that was sketchy and quiet. He shook the up-tempo numbers loose with fast fingers. At these points, the music ceased to be a historical exercise and gained a momentum all its own. At other times, Ribot lingered, wringing his lines for all the deep, reserved feeling they were worth. He had no interest in updating anything, in fusing old and new. Rather, in his arrangements, this quaint, very unmodern style was pulled out of its time. At its best, the band played the music not with any particular reverence, but as if it could be lived. Baron had the jaunty spirit and Kang, despite his limitations, had the rawness. Ribot searched out its depths. —Steve Tignor

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