BULBOUS: the CAPTAIN
GARY LUCAS, arranged
and conducted by PHILLIP JOHNSTON
Fast 'N' Bulbous Facts & Figures
1. Fast 'N' Bulbous is band which was begun in 2001 as a collaboration between Phillip Johnston
and Gary Lucas, to celebrate the music of Don van Vliet and The Magic Band by bringing a rollicking
horn section and improvisational structures to the mostly strictly composed music which he/they
developed in from the mid-1960s through the early 1980s.
2. Fast 'N' Bulbous has released two CDs:
Pork Chop Blue Around The Rind (2005) and
Waxed Oop (An Impetuous Stream Bubbled Up) (2008)
on Cuneiform Records.
3. There is a very interesting and musically literate interview with Phillip and Gary by Beppe Colli
as well as a wonderful review of Pork Chop Blue Around The Rind.
4. After not performing for a couple of years, Fast 'N' Bulbous recently performed a very well-received concert at the 2012 Zappanale, in Bad Doberan, GERMANY
Who Is Fast 'N' Bulbous?
Gary Lucas - guitar
Jesse Krakow - bass
Richard Dworkin - drums
Phillip Johnston - alto saxophone
Rob Henke - trumpet
Joe Fiedler - trombone
Dave Sewelson - baritone saxophone
SONGLIST: The repertoire is drawn
from the entire range of
Beefheartiana, from Safe As Milk through Ice Cream For Crow, (and
heavily on Troutmaskreplica.)
DESCRIPTION OF MUSIC: The idea is
to use the compositions of Don Van Vliet
as a vehicle for improvisation and arranging. The band consists of a
steady crew of seasoned
improvisers from both the worlds of avant-garde jazz and rock, who will
render the music
in both a tribute and a creative adventure in improvising. We use the
horn section to
take the place of the vocals, as well as transmute this guitar-based
music into ensemble
interplay, between horns and guitar and rhythm section.
HISTORY: First performances of the group were in Reggio Emilia, Italy, Brugge,
Belgium, and Bremen, Germany in
October of 2001. On Feb 9th, 2002, the group
made its New York
debut, in a sold-out show at The Knitting Factory that included a
Mike Barnes from his biography of Captain Beefheart, and a program of
videos of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. (see reviews)
Subsequent gigs include 6 European tours, the Walker and Wexner Art Centers, and
New York venues including Joe's Pub & (Le) Poisson Rouge.
GARY LUCAS/STATEMENT: Seeing Don Van Vliet's NYC
debut at Ungano's in '71 with a bunch of my Yale buddies changed my
life radically (and I'm still trying to recover!)--that night I vowed
to myself that if I ever did anything in music it would be to play with
this guy...and I got my wish in 1980 when I joined Captain Beefheart's
merry Band as guest soloist (and manager by default)/ Over 4 years, 2
albums ("Doc at the Radar Station" and "Ice Cream for Crow", 1980 and
1982, Virgin Records), a world tour and video ("Ice Cream for Crow"),
wrapping my fingers around 2 Van Vliet solo compositions ("Flavor Bud
Living" and "Evening Bell") and a whole album as part of the Magic Band
("Ice Cream for Crow) was wonderful training for a career spent carving
out my own niche in the post-modern music biz since Don chucked it all
for painting in 1984. While my own music bares scant resemblance to his
(I would never ever presume to emulate his singular approach) I feel
that Van Vliet's sensibility and aesthetic definitely informs my guitar
playing and overall worldview--it's like I went to Beefheart University.i>
PHILLIP JOHNSTON/STATEMENT: In about 1970 I heard my first Captain Beefheart
tune, Ella Guru; it was one of the things that changed my life and made
me want to do music. From the first concert of Captain Beefheart
& his Magic Band that I heard (Ungano's Ritz Theater, in Staten
Island). I was hooked, and I followed them somewhat fanatically for
years. To this day I listen to my same LP of Troutmaskreplica
regularly, and it's still just as amazing. Although my main musical
interests took me more often into the area of jazz, the music of Don
Van Vliet remained a guiding principal throughout. I led a rock band,
called the Public Servants in the early '80s, with Shelley Hirsch; and
the tune "Pipeline" on my CD "The Needless Kiss" is my idea of a
Captain Beefheart-influenced tune (and I say so in the liner notes). In
much of the music I've written over the years, I see the guiding spirit
of Don Van Vliet.
Now for the first time, after almost 30 years, having done
re-arrangements and deconstructions of Raymond Scott, Billy Strayhorn,
Thelonious Monk, Steve Lacy, Herbie Nichols, and others, with my groups
The Microscopic Septet & Big Trouble, I've gotten together with
my friend Gary Lucas, to do something with the music of Captain
LET THE CRITICS SPEAK:
"... Led by saxophonist Phillip Johnston and featuring ex-Magic Band
guitarist Gary Lucas, Fast 'n Bulbous
proved that Beefheart's songs deserve to be played in his absence and
all their knotty logic, quite PLAYABLE. It was odd to see four hornmen
charts as they tore through the messy ecstasy of "When Big Joan Sets
Up," from 1969's "Trout Mask Replica." But Johnston's brass
scores hit the R&B meat and twisted swing that Beefheart
spidery guitars. "Pachuco Cadaver," also from "Trout Mask",
became a New Orleans marching-band romp. A power-trio medley of "Click
Clack" and "Ice Cream for Crow" with Lucas on searing bottleneck
guitar celebrated the rock in Beefheart's extremes. Beefheart never
star he felt he should be. Yet on nights like this, it still seems
he'd just come back.
- David Fricke, The
"...the all-instrumental Fast 'n' Bulbous slammed into Trout Mask's
Cadaver," replacing Beefheart's vaguely licentious Howlin' Wolf vocals
("She wears her past like uh present/Take her fancy in the past")
with rich, brassy harmonies that illuminated the epigrammatic contours
composer's earthy expressionism.
Fast 'n' Bulbous didn't try to replicate the Magic Band's unique
parallel themes in differing tempos and keys. And while I missed John
"Drumbo" French's almost linguistic drum parts, I fell completely for
the rampant party spirit that pervaded "Veteran's Day Poppy," "When
It Blows Its Stacks," and "Tropical Hot Dog Night." The band's
joyful noises did justice to Beefheart's nature-boy ardor for flesh and
in anticipation, let's hope, for some after-school specials down the
- Richard Gehr, The
"...as if by magic, the musicians began to grow fractious and
obstreperous, with the
horn players tugging in opposite directions from the core of "Abba
Zaba," chattering and arguing like squirrels engaged in a turf battle.
That sound, at once grating and charmingly nature-rooted, would've made
Beefheart proud. The same could be said for the band's deconstruction
"When Big Joan Sets Up" (a piece that's loopy even by Beefheart
standards): Braying, giggling and cajoling brass elements -- and wiry
contributions from a slyly grinning Lucas -- converged, creating a
carnival midway onstage."
"...As arranger, Mr. Johnston had some clever ideas: he turned Mr. Van
art-brut soprano-saxophone playing into notable material and assigned
slide-guitar parts to the trombone. The rhythm section, the bassist
Krakow and the drummer Richard Dworkin, had a tough job in playing
saw-toothed, broken-field rhythms; they came close to the intended
Mr. Krakow in particular played every nuance of the originals. The set
returning to "Trout Mask Replica," Beefheart's masterpiece. From it,
the band played the jerky "Pachuco Cadaver"; "The Blimp,"
with its nutty recitative; the tearing-tempo "When Big Joan Sets Up";
"Veteran's Day Poppy."
- Ben Ratliff, The
New York Times
"...Fast 'N Bulbous play it just right. For starters, they are all
exploratory musicians and cope with the structure of even the "Trout
Mask" songs with great aplomb;
"Pachuco Cadaver" had all the obtuse correspondences of instruments -
and sudden time changes plucked from the ether - down brilliantly. The
and bass parts were spot on and only an ultra nerd/pedant would
drummer for not playing John French's parts exactly beat-for-beat.
wasn't the point he got under the skin
of the rhythm in a freewheeling, French-ian style and hit all the cues
Meanwhile, Gary has obviously done his homework and got all the
chords down, and the bass player is a dextrous monster. I'm not
crowd were baying in between the pieces.
The group's big, physical yet intricate sound was a joy to hear for
Beefheartophile and, I'm sure, for the merely curious. I was expecting
it to be
good but my expectations were surpassed in grand style. Who knows?
Don would have liked it."
- Mike Barnes, Wire
writer, and author of "Captain Beefheart."
Fast 'N' Bulbous links
For booking contact:
Email Gary Lucas.
return to front page of phillipjohnston.com
return to front page of garylucas.com