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A world class guitar hero, a Grammy-nominated songwriter, an international recording artist, and a soundtrack composer for film and television, GARY LUCAS is on the move in 2021.
The former Captain Beefheart guitarist has recorded over 50 acclaimed albums to date in his own right in a variety of genres—jazz, rock, classical, folk, blues, avant-garde and world music—and has performed in over 40 countries—including the UK, Canada, Australia, all over Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, Israel, South Korea, Serbia, China, Russia, Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Taiwan, Morocco, India, and elsewhere.
Gary has received several Lifetime Achievement awards for his songwriting with Jeff Buckley (he co-wrote Jeff's anthems "Grace" and "Mojo Pin") and many honors—including performing solo before the General Assembly of the UN to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
He has performed and collaborated with a who's who of musical luminaries, including Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), Jeff Buckley, Leonard Bernstein, Lou Reed, John Cale, Patti Smith, Chris Cornell, Bryan Ferry, Nona Hendryx, Los Van Van, Bob Weir, Nick Cave, Thurston Moore, Lukas Ligeti, Martha Wainwright, Camille O'Sullivan, Steve Kilbey, and many others, and he has given Masterclasses in guitar and songwriting at his alma mater Yale University, Columbia University, Rutgers University, the Amsterdam Musik Conservatorium, the Henri Dutilleux Conservatoire in Paris, The New School, and other academic institutions.
Dubbed "The Thinking Man's Guitar Hero" by The New Yorker, "The world's most popular avant-rock guitarist" by The Independent (UK), "One of the 100 Greatest Living Guitarists" (Classic Rock), "Legendary Leftfield guitarist" by The Guardian (UK), "Guitarist of 1000 Ideas" by The New York Times, "a true axe God" by Melody Maker, and "One of the five best guitarists in the world" by the national Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny; the British world music magazine fRoots recently described Gary Lucas as "without question, the most innovative and challenging guitarist playing today." Rolling Stone's David Fricke wrote: "Gary Lucas is one of the best and most original guitarists in America...a modern guitar miracle." Best-selling author/producer Dan Levitin ("This Is Your Brain On Music") recently cited Gary as "the greatest living electric guitarist". Gary was also dubbed "one of the world's greatest guitar players" by HITS Magazine. Pete Frame, music journalist, founder/editor of legendary UK music magazine ZigZag, and author/creator of 5 volumes of "Rock Family Trees" said of Gary, "Can there be another musician as adventurous, ingenious, accomplished, diverse, intrepid, hard-working and well-travelled as Gary Lucas?"
Quotable quotes about Gary Lucas:
"You're a phenomenal guitarist" —Bruce Springsteen
"Man can play guitar!" —Captain Beefheart
"I could listen to you play for hours, Gary...beyond cool" —Lou Reed
"An incredible guitarist" —Nick Cave
"Man, you were really wailing!" —Leonard Bernstein
"One of the best and most original guitarists in America...a modern guitar miracle" —Rolling Stone
"The Thinking Man's Guitar Hero…an A-list musician" —The New Yorker
"One of the 100 Greatest Living Guitarists" —Classic Rock Magazine
"One of the world's greatest guitarists" —HITS Magazine
"Legendary left-field guitarist" —The Guardian
"Gary Lucas plays guitar like Salvador Dali paints...guitarist with a global beat." —New York Times
"Can there be another musician as adventurous, ingenious, accomplished, diverse, intrepid, hard-working and well-travelled as Gary Lucas?" —Pete Frame, music journalist, founder/editor of legendary UK music magazine ZigZag, and author/creator of 5 volumes of "Rock Family Trees"
2021 finally saw the release of Gary's 40-year retrospective double album THE ESSENTIAL GARY LUCAS on Knitting Factory Records, after many delays in the previous year due to the pandemic. The critical response to date to the compilation has been tremendous, with 3 high-profile reviews in the UK:
"Extraordinary 2-CD retrospective"
"The elegance of the phrasing, the ubiquity of call and response figures, (another connection to Miles Davis), the ability to fit almost sonic environment is quite uncanny...there isn't a single item here that doesn't have Lucas's musical personality running through it like quartz. Essential? It's all essential."
"A testament to the man's restless energy and imagination."
The excellent media coverage continued with an hour-plus appearance on legendary music critic David Fricke's show "The Writer's Block" on the SIRIUS XM radio Feb. 10th, and an interview in Aquarium Drunkard. Gary was Artist of the Week in the second week of February on WPKN in Bridgeport Conn where his track "King Strong" rose to #3 Favorite Track of the Week—check out the video here. Gary also made the cover of the UK's Rock's Back Pages website. More stellar reviews of THE ESSENTIAL GARY LUCAS included 4.5 out of 5 Stars in American Songwriter Magazine, a rave in the Netherland's OOR Magazine, the Rolling Stone of Holland, and a lengthy profile in two parts in ReportersOnline entitled "Gary Lucas: The Man, His Guitar and the World"—Part One (English translation) and Part Two (English translation). In Italy, one of the most popular countries for Gary Lucas, Gary was asked to write an article for Italian Rolling Stone entitled "La Via Mia in 10 Canzoni" (Gary Lucas: My Life in 10 Songs) (English translation). Gary was also interviewed on Italian national radio Controradio Firenze and was played in regular rotation on Rai Radio 3's "Battisti" program. More excellent reviews included 4 out of 5 Stars in Jazzwise (UK), 4 out of 5 Hooks in Off the Hook, 10 out of 10 in Take Effect, and 5 out of 5 in The Inconsistent Jukebox. There was a lengthy new interview in the Rolling Stone of Spain, Ruta 66 (Spain), a rave review at Beefheart.com, and an interview in The Oakland Press. Several new clips for the retrospective album include "Out From Under" featuring Haydee and Suylen Milanes and Los Van Van, "Follow" created by Mexican animation whizzes Nadia and Anahi Rubalcava, "After Strange Gods", "Flavor Bud Living", and the latest clip, a Mandarin version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" translated and sung by Feifei Yang. On Chinese New Year Feb. 12th after both getting tested Gary and Feifei streamed a special hour long concert of their Edge of Heaven Chinese show for the Queens Public Library in Astoria. And on Feb. 15th the duo made an appearance at the American Dream Mall in New Jersey backed by the Asian Cultural Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Stephen Yang. On the occasion of Don Van Viet (Captain Beefheart)'s birthday Jan. 15th, PleaseKillMe.com published a reminiscence by Gary of working with Don and the pair's close encounters with Frank Zappa. Gary also published several more pieces at Please Kill Me over the ensuing months, including a memory of working on a rap record with Vin Diesel and Arthur Russell, and an appreciation of the Bonzo Dog Band's Vivian Stanshall, the original Fleetwood Mac's leader Peter Green, and the Rolling Stone's Brian Jones. On July 1st, Gary unleashed his latest project LE BEAST CONCRÈTE, a new electronica collaboration with producer/dj/beatmaster extraordinaire David Sisko. First up out of the box was their digital single "Realize It", with accompanying psychedelic animated clip by 3XA. The new single is available for streaming and download here. About their new single, La Ruta (Spain) raved: "Always surprising and unfathomable, Gary Lucas (Captain Beefheart, Peter Hammill, John Cale, Lou Reed, etc.) presents a new single with producer and engineer David Sisko combining Gary's signature guitar riffs and lines with Sisko's deep 808 trap and relentless dancefloor beats with a result that reflects the guitar player's complexity mixing genres such as blues, rock, dance, trap and avant-garde. This single is part of his new project, "Le Beast Concrète", prelude to the album "Gargoyle" which will be released on Wednesday, August 11, 2021." On Sept. 11th, Gary mounted a 40th anniversary show dating from his first ever appearances onstage with Captain Beefheart in the fall of 1980 at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC. Lucas reassembled his longtime psychedelic band with Ernie Brooks bass (Modern Lovers), Jerry Harrison keyboards (Talking Heads), Jason Candler keyboards (Hungry March Band) and Richard Dworkin drums (World of Captain Beefheart). Special guests for the evening included former Gods and Monsters vocalists Emily Duff, Richard Barone, and Felice Rosser, and Thurston Moore on guitar (Sonic Youth). The show got a major writeup in the Aquarian, and check out audience clips of “One Man’s Meat” and “The Stumble”. Gary followed up with a Gods and Monsters 30th anniversary show at Elsewhere in Brooklyn which featured special guest vocalists Feifei Yang and Angelica Zollo, and original Gods and Monsters members Richard Barone vocals (The Bongos) and Jared Michael Nickerson bass (Burnt Sugar). On Sept. 15th 2021, Rolling Stone magazine published their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time which included Gary Lucas and Jeff Buckley’s anthem "Grace"—the title track of Jeff Buckley's two-million selling 1994 album. On Nov. 7th, GARY LUCAS released a new acoustic duo project on the ZenneZ label featuring award-winning young Dutch acoustic bassist and vocalist PETER WILLEMS entitled DOUBLE DARE VOL. ONE. Gary and Peter met under the auspices of Gary’s old friend Dutch producer Co de Kloet shortly before lockdown, and immediately began collaborating and recording in 2020, combining jazz, blues, folk, rock, classical and electronic music. The duo made their official live debut before an audience with a sold-out concert in Maastricht’s Lumiere Cinema, followed by an instore appearance in Hilversum, which was taped for a live broadcast on Co de Kloet’s “CoLive!" program on national Dutch radio NTR. This was followed by a concert at the Parkstad Limburg Theatre in Heerlen. DOUBLE DARE VOL. TWO, focusing on the electric side of their music, will be released digitally Feb. 7th 2022, followed by a CD and double vinyl release containing both volumes. Gary closed out the year with a national Dutch radio retrospective of his work on Co de Kloet's "Co Live!" program on NTR, and four overseas concerts—solo in Tuscany, solo and with an all-star ensemble including percussionist Lukas Ligeti in Paris, solo and duo with Peter Willems in the Netherlands, and solo acoustic on Dec. 15th in London at regal Winfield House in Regent's Park. This was a private concert by invitation of Acting US Ambassador to the UK Philip Reeker, similar to a private concert he had arranged for Gary when he was Consul General in Milan a few years ago, where he presented Gary with an Award for Cultural Diplomacy. The year ended with ROCKDELUX, one of the most important music magazines in Spain, selecting THE ESSENTIAL GARY LUCAS as one of the best compilations of the year. The compilation was also named the #5 album of the year by Pennyblackmusic.co.uk, and it was chosen by WPKN's Bob Chamenko for the top of his Best Albums of 2021 List. And Please Kill Me.com named two of Gary’s articles—“Captain Beefheart vs. Frank Zappa” and “Arthur Russell vs. Vin Diesel” as amongst the Best of the Year.
Coming up in 2022, Gary mounts a special Chinese New Year edition of The Edge of Heaven with Feifei Yang at Joe’s Pub on Feb. 1st. And The World of Captain Beefheart featuring Gary and the fabulous Nona Hendryx has just been tapped to play Bang On a Can’s new Long Play Festival in Brooklyn over the last weekend in April—venue, date and time tba.
2020 began on a bright note for Gary with a high-profile appearance at the legendary Anthology Film Archives in NYC, performing a live solo score at a tribute to the recently departed founder and avatar of experimental film Jonas Mekas, on a bill with special guests Jim Jarmusch, Ed Sanders (The Fugs), and Richard Barone. This was followed by a solo show at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater in Manhattan billed as "Gary Lucas and Frenz", which featured his Gods and Monsters band (Ernie Brooks, Billy Ficca and Jason Candler) plus special guests vocalists Feifei Yang and Anna Podolak. Gary then journeyed to Ithaca NY in early March for a sold-out performance with "The Golem" at Cornell University, which would prove to be his last out of town gig before the pandemic lockdown of the US began mid-March. In lieu of all of his live shows being postponed both domestically and internationally, Gary began doing thrice a week solo concerts live streaming from his apartment on Facebook every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 3:00pm EDT, which has attracted a worldwide audience. They are all archived here and are continuously updated. Gary's live streaming shows were singled out for praise by Ben Sisario in the Sunday New York Times Arts and Leisure section, and he was interviewed about live streaming in New York State Music. In late October 2020 Gary was invited with the authorization of the Dutch government to play the "So What's Next Festival" in Eindhoven Netherlands with his live solo score accompanying the legendary Spanish "Dracula" on Halloween, and also a new duo project with Dutch acoustic bassist and singer Peter Willems. Lucas successfully overrode the travel ban on Americans during the pandemic to journey to the Netherlands, the first country in Europe to get behind his music in a big way, and his shows were live-streamed on social media from the Eindhoven Muziekgebouw. While in the Netherlands he recorded a new album with Peter Willems scheduled for 2021 release. In January 2021, Knitting Factory Records will release a 40 year double CD retrospective album of Gary's work "The Essential Gary Lucas", which received an early writeup in Broadway World and advance praise in Guitar World (part 1 and part 2), Premier Guitar, the Sydney Morning Herald, Eighth Day (Ireland), and Dancing About Architecture (UK). Also see recent interviews in The Quietus (UK) and The Forward, and check out Gary's Pandemic Top 10 Albums. In 2020 Gary also started writing semi-regularly for the music and culture website PleaseKillMe.com—contributing an article about the death of Brian Jones, the life of Peter Green, and a new biography of Malcolm McLaren.
2019 was a very busy year for GARY LUCAS. His album with Italian singer The Niro (Davide Combusti), "The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook" (Esordisco), recorded in Rome at the end of 2018 and featuring new studio versions of all 12 songs co-written by Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas including five never before officially released, was released worldwide in the fall of 2019 and at Christmas that year was voted Best Album of 2019 by Classic Rock Magazine Italia. Gary closed 2019 with 5 weeks on the road touring in Italy with The Niro and the album's producer the multi-instrumentalist Francesco Arpino, and also concerts and Masterclasses in France, Belgium, and Holland. Right before Christmas Gary was interviewed and performed live on TGCom 24 Italian national television. He was also interviewed in Italian Rolling Stone (English translation here). Lucas also performed concerts in Belgium and Holland with a variety of outstanding Dutch and Belgian vocalists and musicians, including the duo Portland and conducted three Guitar Masterclasses in France. While in Normandy, France he recorded a new EP with French/Moroccan singer Yass Boud and producer David Konopnicki, scheduled for release in fall 2020. More 2019 highlights include the world premiere of Lucas's new live solo guitar score for Erich Van Stroheim's "The Wedding March" at la Cinematheque Francaise in Paris and a sold-out performance at the Sunset Jazz Club in Paris with special guests. Gary's live film projects were also to the fore in 2019, including a performance of his live score accompanying James Whale's "Frankenstein" at the Chutzpah! Festival in Vancouver BC, and his live score for George Melford's Spanish "Dracula" at Cine Tonala in Mexico City, and the Teopanzolco Cultural Center in Cuernavaca Mexico. He also performed at the Metrograph NYC with his live solo score accompanying Tod Browning's "The Unholy Three" and Paul Wegener and Carl Boese's "The Golem" as part of an ongoing retrospective of his live film scores curated by Jacob Perlin and Robert Melvin Rubin. Lucas also performed his live score accompanying Luis Bunuel's "El Angel Exterminador" in Bilbao Spain, which was a Pick in El Correo. He also accompanied Wu Yonggang's "The Goddess" with his original live score at the Transylvania International Film Festival in Cluj Romania in early June—check out a podcast interview at TIFF with Gary Lucas on Fred.fm radio. Gary also performed his longtime Chinese pop project "The Edge of Heaven" with Feifei Yang and Jason Candler at the Museum of Chinese in America, at Joe's Pub NYC, and on the Joe's Pub Outdoor Stage at the Make Music NY Festival, a global music event connecting 75 cities.
2018 was a very busy year for Gary. He returned to NYC right before Christmas from a week in the studio in Rome working on a new album project with Italian singer Davide Combusti (The Niro) and producer Francesco Arpino. Other highlights included opening famed director Emir Kusturica's long-running Kustendorf Film and Music Festival in Serbia with two live film scores, including the formerly lost Russian fantasy short "Bound By Film" starring Vladimir Mayakovsky and Rene Clair's surrealistic "Entr'acte"; and jamming with Emir Kusturica's Balkan gypsy ensemble The No Smoking Orchestra. Gary returned again to Serbia in July to perform at Kusturica's Bolshoi Classical Music Festival with a third live film score for the famed Russian silent comedy "Chess Fever".
Also in 2018, Gary's long-standing 30's Chinese music project THE EDGE OF HEAVEN was reinvigorated in a new trio format featuring Feifei Yang on vocals and erhu, and multi-instrumentalist Jason Candler. They made their live debut on Chinese New Year in February 2016 at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in NYC, and clips of the show were broadcast on mainland China's CGTN. The trio are currently wrapping their upcoming album, which features Mandarin versions of classics by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas and other Western singer/songwriting greats, for Knitting Factory Records for a spring 2019 release.
In Feb. 2018 Gary sold-out la Cinematheque francaise in Paris performing the European premiere of his live solo score for Tod Browning's 1925 silent thriller "The Unholy Three", with over 425 fans packing the Henri Langlois Theatre. Later that week in Paris he headlined the Sunset Jazz Club with special guests including keyboardist Jean-Philippe Rykiel for two sold-out shows.
In April Gary performed 6 solo shows in Italy with various guest vocalists, which included a Jeff Buckley Tribute in Milano and a special appearance at the Museo del Rock in Calabria. This was followed by a dozen shows in the UK of Gary's new solo multimedia project "From Beefheart to Buckley and Beyond" which includes stories from his nearly 40-year career in music, rare live clips, and a diverse selection from Gary's 30-plus album catalog. Gary played in London, Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle and other cities and received standing ovations throughout, as well as selling-out several shows. Both these tours generated extensive media coverage, including a two page spread in Italian national newspaper La Repubblica and a feature in the UK's Total Guitar Magazine.
In October Gary Lucas sold-out NYC's premier art-house cinema The Metrograph with his live score accompanying the legendary 1930 Spanish "Dracula". This was the first entry in an ongoing retrospective of Lucas' live film scores at The Metrograph, curated by Jacob Perlin and Robert Melvin Rubin. He also sat in with the great psychedelic band The Slambovian Circus of Dreams for several shows in the Hudson Valley, including a gala Halloween event at the Tarrytown Music Hall, and gave a Masterclass at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan.
Highlights of 2017 included Gary's solo appearance before the General Assembly of the UN on Jan. 27th for Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the premiere of his new live solo guitar score for Orson Welles' 1938 silent surrealist classic "Too Much Johnson" that same evening. Gary's live scoring for films was highlighted in a National Public Radio profile broadcast in February. Also in February Gary produced a new album in Oxford England for UK singer/songwriter Ed Laurie, whose previous work received much airplay on NPR. A solo tour of Europe in June took Gary to the Czech Republic, where he acted in the forthcoming film "The Supervision of the Interpretation of Dreams" by Czech director Pavel Gobl, and performed solo in the Varnsdorf State Theater on the Czech German border—followed by two nights paying tribute to Jeff Buckley in the Recoletos Jazz Club in Madrid with a number of talented Spanish vocalists including Mercedes Ferrer and Miryam Latrece. Gary next performed in Porto Portugal for two nights solo acoustic at Soliloquios followed by a week performing in Copenhagen and Vanlose Denmark, including a Morgensang appearance at the Danish National Library, and work on a Captain Beefheart tribute EP with Danish musicians for the 50th anniversary of the release of Beefheart's "Safe as Milk" album. He also played his first ever show in Pori Finland to celebrate the 150th show of the underground club Validi Karkia. In September Lucas journeyed to London England, where he recorded an interview about working with Jeff Buckley at Eastcote Studios, and afterwards headlined a sold-out tribute to Jeff in London Sept. 9th with his special guest Italian singer Mari Conti. Later that fall saw the release of three Gary Lucas-related albums: "Gary and Toni Go Nutz!" (Rare Lumiere and OkayMusic), a duo album recorded in Budapest with songs and free improvisation from Gary's Pearly Clouds saxophonist partner Toni Dezso with a wonderful animated feature by Rokus Kalapis to go with it; a reissue of Gary's celebrated "Rishte" album with Najma Akhtar on the OkayMusic digital label, which rose to #4 on the World Music Charts Europe; and the OkayMusic digital release of "I Have a Cat", a collaboration with Dutch DJ/producer/and Beefheart-Zappa Go-to-Guy Co de Kloet, which set the last extant interview with Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) to music composed by Gary. In September Gary and his latest collaborator the fantastic Chinese vocalist and erhu virtuoso Feifei Yang performed with the 70-piece Asian Cultural Orchestra at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall for the annual Moon Festival, which featured their duet on a Teresa Teng Chinese pop standard "The Moon Represents My Heart", with Gary singing in Mandarin. Meanwhile Gary stayed hard at work in the recording studio with the fantastic Chinese vocalist Feifei Yang and his long time saxophonist Jason Candler on a followup to Gary's celebrated album of 30's Chinese pop "The Edge of Heaven", and the trio recorded a new version of Gary and Jeff Buckley's anthem "Grace" in Mandarin, which they debuted at the annual NYC Jeff Buckley Tribute at Arlene's Grocery Nov. 12th. Feifei and Gary recently were judges on CCTV's new "Super Baby" talent competition for gifted Chinese children, and a documentary on their collaboration is scheduled to air on SinoVision. Halloween saw Gary revisit his acclaimed live score accompanying silent chiller "The Golem" at the Alamo Drafthouse Theaters in Brooklyn and in Austin Texas. A major highlight of the year was a special teaser gig Sept. 20th at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater with Gary and Nona Hendryx's new Captain Beefheart tribute ensemble The World of Captain Beefheart, which sold-out the club and generated enough heat to cause fire alarm bells to go off, forcing an evacuation of the audience and the band from the club temporarily! Their new album The World of Captain Beefheart—Gary's 4th album to be released in 2017—dropped Nov. 17th on Knitting Factory Records, and has received superlative reviews everywhere. Gary also received a special full-page Hello-Goodbye feature in MOJO Magazine about his work with Captain Beefheart which coincided with an appearance at a special Captain Beefheart Weekend event in Liverpool England, where Gary appeared on a panel at the Bluecoat Gallery and performed solo at the District nightclub.
2016 saw the release of 3 acclaimed Gary Lucas albums: "Gary Lucas' FLEISCHEREI: Music from Max Fleischer Cartoons" (Cuneiform)—a mixture of Tin Pan Alley, swing and Harlem jungle jazz drawn from the soundtracks of Max Fleischer's early 30's Betty Boop and Popeye Cartoons and featuring Joe Fiedler, Jeff Lederer, Rob Garacia, Michael Bates, and Sarah Stiles. The album was just picked as "One of the Best Albums of 2016" by DownBeat Magazine, and cited as "One of the Best Indie Albums of 2016" by Goldmine Magazine. In 2016 Gary Lucas' FLEISCHEREI performed at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens; the Washington DC Jewish Film Festival at the AFI Silver Theater MD; the Porgy and Bess Jazz Club in Wien; the Boston Jewish Film Festival; at the City Winery NYC and City Winery Chicago seders; and at the City Winery NYC klezmer brunch.
2016 also saw the release of Gary Lucas' PEARLY CLOUDS album (Trapeze), based on traditional Hungarian folk music, featuring saxophonist Toni Dezso and vocalist Eniko Szabo. The album received spectacular reviews including "A record of spiritual longing and timeless musical transcendence" (fROOTS), and "Unusual and compelling listening" (BBC 3).
2016 began with the release of Gary Lucas and Jann Klose's acoustic folk pop album STEREOPTICON (Cosmic Trigger) which received "4 Stars" in MOJO. No Depression wrote: "The harmonies, vocal interactions, and clear precise acoustic guitar provide the listener with enchanting listening."
Other Gary Lucas 2016 highlights included:
The US premiere of his live solo film score accompanying Luis Bunuel's "The Exterminating Angel" (1962) at Pioneer Works in Red Hook Brooklyn 3/18/16, reviewed by jazz critic Jim Macnie
The Brooklyn premiere of his live solo film score accompanying Wu Yonggang's 1934 Chinese silent film "The Goddess" at Pioneer Works Red Hook Brooklyn 7/8/16 reviewed by Richard Porton (Cineaste) and Glenn Kenny (NY Times)
Headlining the Pisa Internet Festival in Italy with a solo acoustic concert at Teatro Lumiere 10/6/16
Performing a solo concert at the Gaia Arts Center Havana Cuba with special guest vocalist Danae Villanueva Blanco 5/18/16
Live clip from Gaia | Preview of Lucas' concert in Cuban national newspaper Granma
Giving a Guitar Masterclass and seminar on the craft of songwriting at the Amsterdam Musik Conservatorium 12/7-12/8/2016
Giving a Guitar Masterclass and a solo concert for disadvantaged children at the Biblioteca Benjamin Franklin in Mexico City by invitation of the US Embassy Mexico 11/9/16
Performing a solo concert plus a reunion with musicians from the Czech underground (Plastic People of the Universe, DG 307 and Urfaust) at Blues Bahnhof Prague 12/10/16
Performing a 30's Chinese pop tribute with longtime collaborator Sally Kwok at the Peace Hotel Shanghai for the 30th anniversary of Sally Kwok and Andrew Bull 11/3/16
Performing at the "Hendrix in Harlem" Tribute at the Apollo Theater with Fishbone, Nona Hendryx, Ernie Isley and others 11/26/16
Gary Lucas and Jeff Buckley's version of Bob Dylan's "Farewell Angelina" featured on the soundtrack of Cameron Crowe's Showtime series "Roadies" 7/3/16
2015 was also one of Lucas' best years ever—finishing with a bang in Mexico City Dec. 8th where Lucas performed for the second year in a row by invitation of the U.S. Embassy at the Biblioteca Benjamin Franklin, as part of their Music Outreach Program for disadvantaged children. Earlier this year, Gary performed a similar concert for disadvantaged children in Sotogrande Spain.
Gary's appearance in Mexico City was directly on the heels of his 4 nights as Artist in Residence at Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool England, where Lucas performed 6 different solo projects, including his new Jeff Buckley Symposium and his live solo guitar score accompanying the 1931 horror classic "Frankenstein".
Gary made three separate solo tours of Italy in 2015 through the auspices of Luca Zannotti and Musiche Metropolitane, where his profile continues to rise.
These included a marathon 2 1/2 hour acoustic solo concert in Venice in December, an appearance at legendary Italian singer/songwriter Vinicio Caposella's "Moon in June Festival" in Umbria on his birthday June 20th, and multiple performances in Bologna, Milan, Asti, Livorno, Milano and other cities with his friend Italian singer/songwriter Alessio Franchini—including Alessio's "Touch of Grace" Tribute to Jeff Buckley at the Teatro della Luna in Milano in March. There was much attendant Italian media exposure, including La Stampa TV, Italian national newspaper La Republicca, and a televised performance with many noted Italian artists on the famous Italian music program "Red Ronnie Live at the Roxy Bar".
Lucas also received two major awards in Italy this year—a Lifetime Achievement Award presented to him in December at the Premio Ciampi Festival in Tuscany, named for legendary Italian songwriter Piero Ciampi. In March, Gary received the U.S. Consul General's Award for Cultural Diplomacy at a private party in his honor held in Milan at the residence of U.S. Consul General Philip T. Reeker, with invited guests including the editor of Italian Rolling Stone.
Other 2015 highlights included Gary leading his longtime supergroup Gods and Monsters as Music Director of "A State of Grace", a multi-artist tribute to both Tim and Jeff Buckley Down Under, which saw Gary perform with singer/songwriter Martha Wainwright, Steve Kilbey (The Church), and other vocalists before 6000 people over 6 nights in large theaters and arts centers in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and at the Brisbane Festival.
2014 began with a bang with the successful world premiere Jan. 8th of Lucas's new live score for Shanghai silent film classic "The Goddess" at Fundacion Botin in Santander Spain, followed by a performance there with Gary's Spanish "Dracula" project Jan. 10th. Gary's new duo collaboration with UK vocalist Peter Hammill (Van Der Graaf Generator) entitled "Otherworld" was released Feb. 3rd on Esoteric/Cherry Red Records (see the press release here), followed by their live debut Fri. Feb. 21st at London's Union Chapel. The album went on to receive 4 and 5 star reviews internationally, and landed the pair on the cover of both Guitar Player Magazine and Rock Society Magazine. The duo headlined the Gouveia Art Rock Festival in Portugal in May and packed the Teatro de la Ciudad Esperanza Iris in Mexico City in November, which was selected one of the year's best concerts by Gastv.mx, and was taped for national public television of Mexico. While there, Gary was invited to play a free solo concert for disadvantaged children at the Benjamin Franklin Library by US Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne, who wrote Gary a personal letter of appreciation for taking part in the Ambassador's Music Outreach program.
In February, Gary recorded a new album in Budapest with Hungarian jazz-rock ensemble DeBORT, led by saxophonist Toni Deszo, and was interviewed by Rockbook Hungary. Later that month Gary journeyed to Columbus Ohio to perform his live score for Jose Mojica Marins' 1967 Brazilian cult classic "This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse", one of his many live music and film projects. In addition to "The Goddess", which received much praise from Film Society of Lincoln Center Director Emeritus Richard Pena, Lucas premiered two new live film scores, accompanying the legendary 1931 James Whale-directed "Frankenstein" on Halloween at the United Palace Theater in Harlem NY with his original music, and premiering his new score for Dreyer's classic 1931 "Vampyr" the following day Nov. 1st (Day of the Dead) at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring Maryland, where he also performed his score for Spanish "Dracula". AFI programming director Todd Hitchcock especially praised Gary's new "Vampyr" score. In April Gary presented a well-received masterclass at Rutgers University School of Music in New Jersey for Prof. Chris Opperman's class. Early May saw the release of Gary and Colleen 'Cosmo' Murphy's Wild Rumpus album "Musical Blaze-Up" as a double vinyl disc (which rapidly sold-out its pressing), and as a digital download. The pair released several 12 inch vinyl singles over the last few years to wide acclaim, and made live appearances in NYC, London, Brussels, Romania, and Hyderabad India. Their release was greeted by raves in the press, including a feature in the UK's prestigious DJ Magazine. In June Gary celebrated the 25th anniversary of his longtime NYC-based avant-supergroup Gods and Monsters with a special concert at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan, which featured guest vocalists Jann Klose (who he has been collaborating on songs with), Felice Rosser, Gisburg, and Dusty Wright, and touched on music spanning Gary's entire career. In July Gary sat in as a special guest with Mongolian/Buryat vocalist/world music star Namgar at Barbes in Brooklyn, the start of a promising new collaboration. This August he debuted his new "Fleischerei" project—a tribute to the music of Max Fleischer's Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons featuring NYC music theater star Sarah Stiles ("Into the Woods", "Avenue Q") and trombonist/arranger Joe Fiedler ("Sesame Street")—at a private party at The Bridge Golf Club in Bridgehampton LI. Gary's swinging, jazzy ensemble made their public debut in November at BAM Cafe, and they are working on their debut album. Gary also has been working on a new acoustic folk-pop duo project with singer Jann Klose and lyricist Dan Beck entitled Lucas Klose. Their song "Mary Magdalene", marking the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy's devastating impact on the Eastern US seaboard, was featured on CBS News and 1010 WINS News Radio, and they are currently in the studio recording new tracks for their debut album. In addition, Gary recorded a new song the previous fall with longtime associate Italian vocalist Alessio Franchini in Livorno Italy, and will be performing live in Alessio's tribute to Jeff Buckley in Milan in March 2015, "A Touch of Grace". Gary also performed two Classic Album Sundays Tributes to the "Grace" album in Oslo and in Brooklyn, marking the 20th anniversary of the album's release. And Gary's book "Touched By Grace: My Time with Jeff Buckley" (Jawbone) was named One of the Best Books of 2014 by HITS magazine editor Roy Trakin in his year-end wrap-up.
2013 was a year of many triumphs for Gary Lucas. His latest album "Cinefantastique" (Northern Spy)—a collection of some of Gary's own film music plus his solo arrangements of classic themes from Fellini, Hitchcock, Werner Herzog, Bela Tarr and other greats—was named one of the Top 10 Roots Albums of 2013 by the Philadelphia Citypaper, and was hailed as Guitar Album of the Year by the Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog. During 2013, Lucas sold out six shows, three of them with his long-running Spanish "Dracula"—including high profile appearances at the Jerusalem Film Festival 7/16/13, the Silent Movie Theatre in Hollywood 7/30/13, and at the Cineteca Nacional in Mexico City 11/30/13. Additionally, Gary performed with the film in uptown NYC at the vintage 30's landmark United Palace Theatre in Harlem 11/1/13. On Oct. 5th 2013 he sold-out the expanded concert version of his celebrated 30's Chinese pop concert "The Edge of Heaven"—featuring Shanghai divas Sally Kwok and Mo Hai Jing and Gary's longtime band Gods and Monsters—at BAM's Fisher Space Oct. 5th as part of a two night engagement, which featured sumptuous visual projections of scenes of old Shanghai. He also sold out a trio version of this concert with his two female singers on 7/19/13 at the 1930 Club in Shanghai itself. He also sold out a special tribute to Don Van Vliet at the Paradiso in Amsterdam on Feb. 17th entitled "The World of Captain Beefheart", produced by Co de Kloet and featuring Gary with The Metrtopole Orchestra (an unprecedented second appearance with them in a year), vocalists Nona Hendryx, Jolene Grunberg, Tom Trapp and others.
Other highlights of 2013 include Lucas receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Barezzi Festival in Parma Italy, where he performed a marathon 3 hour set both solo and later as a Tribute to Jeff Buckley featuring well-known Italian singer/songwriter Vinicio Caposella and vocalist Alessio Franchini, who has worked extensively with Lucas over the years—including a Buckley Tribute show May 17th at Teatro Corso in Venice. In mid-October Gary performed solo as part of a production of Federico Garcia Lorca's play "La Casa de Bernarda Alba" at the Gaia Arts Center in Havana, his 7th appearance there. Gary played legendary Parisien bookstore Shakespeare and Company twice in 2013, with vocalists Jeanne Madic May 13th, and on Nov. 7th with vocalist Tim Watt, the latter an in-store appearance in support of his new book "Touched By Grace", which was published in English in 2013 by Jawbone Press to rave reviews, including 4 Stars in MOJO. In November he played Royal Festival Hall in London 11/14/13, and dates in Bristol, Aberdeen and Edinburgh in support of his new book. In May of 2013 Gary was profiled in a documentary "Gary Lucas in Havana" by Klaus Totzler on Austrian national television ORF and on 3SAT TV, on the heels of the European premiere of his live score accompanying Jose Mojica Marins' Brazilian horror classic "Esta Noite Encarnerei no teu Cadaver" at the Melkweg Amsterdam May 12th. Lucas also played a special concert in Brooklyn's Littlefield on June 11th with Austin ensemble Mother Falcon and rock goddess Amanda Palmer. He finished out 2013 performing in his ancestral home in Eastern Europe (Gary is of Bohemian descent) with several high profile shows in the Czech Republic—Spanish "Dracula" at Kino Aero Prague 12/18/13 and at Kino Siska Brno 12/19/13—and he debuted his new Ghosts of Prague ensemble with Richard Mader and vocalist Pat Fulgoni on Dec. 14th at Prague's floating club Jazz Dock. Gary finished the year out with a well-received solo show at the Budapest Jazz Club Dec. 21st, where he jammed with avant-garde ensemble deBORT's leader saxophonist Toni Deszo.
In Jan. 2012 alone Gary performed his Spanish "Dracula" project at Bilbao's annual Musiketan Festival; sold-out two nights of his Captain Beefheart Symposium at Liverpool's Royal Philharmonic Hall; recorded numerous tracks with Bryan Ferry at Olympia Studios in London; and appeared on the cover of two national Portuguese national newspapers in support of his solo performing debut in Lisboa and Porto. He performed his Coffin Joe live music and film project twice at SXSW after successfully playing the US premiere at the Lincoln Center LatinBeat Film festival, and returned to NYC to make high profile solo appearances at Le Poisson Rouge and Joe's Pub, also headlining a tribute to avant-garde legends The Shaggs at The Bellhouse in Brooklyn where he returned in June to perform with his longtime supergroup Gods and Monsters. In July Gary performed live before an estimated viewing audience of 400 million on CNBC in a segment devoted to Gibson Guitars, sold out the Silent Movie Theater in LA with his live score accompanying "The Golem", and was interviewed later that summer on the national French ARTE Channel for the documentary "Rock Attitude". In August, Gary traveled to Germany for his second appearance at the annual Zappanale, this time with his reunited Beefheart tribute band Fast 'N' Bulbous, and also made his performing debut solo in Sardinia at the Santa Arresi Jazz Festival, and then went to Amsterdam for a sold-out show at the legendary Paradiso entitled "The Music of Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas", featuring the 60 piece Metropole Orchestra, Italian vocalist Alessio Franchini and several Dutch singers. This coincided with the publication in September of Gary's first book "Touched by Grace—La Mia Musica con Jeff Buckley" by well known Italian music book publisher Arcana, which received rave reviews in the Italian press and which Gary supported with several Italian in store appearances and concerts, including Feltrinelli in Trieste, the FNAC Megastore in Milano, and the Madame Guitar Festival in Tricesimo (Gary's third appearance there). Later in the month Gary appeared at the Toronto Film Festival in support of the new film about Jeff Buckley's early days in NYC, "Greetings from Tim Buckley", starring Penn Badgley and featuring Tony-award winner Frank Wood as Gary. The film received outstanding reviews and will be released worldwide in cinemas in spring 2013. In October, Gary did a 3-1/2 hour interactive Facebook interview with Roch Parisien. He also performed a stellar night with the Les Paul Trio and singer Jann Klose in NYC's Iridium Jazz Club. Later that fall Gary traveled to Paris where he performed a masterclass and a concert with French guitarist David Konopnicki and his band at the Henri Dutilleux Music Conservatoire; created two signature TonePrints for TC Electronics of Denmark which will be available free for download by guitarists worldwide in spring 2013; and performed at legendary Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Co. He then performed a week of shows in the Czech Republic, headlining Prague's Alternativa Festival solo, appearing live for 3 hours of interviews and performance on national Beat Radio, performing in Jablonec Bohemia with his "Monsters from the Id" music and film project; and finished out the year with a trip to Havana—his fifth appearance there—where he performed three nights at the Gaia Arts Center in a tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni on the occasion of his 100th anniversary; performed live on national Radio Havana and Radio Taino; and was interviewed and filmed performing live by national Austrian television ORF for a program which will air in 2013. Gary starts the year with a bang headlining the famed Paradiso in Amsterdam Feb. 17th with "The World of Captain Beefheart", a gala concert featuring the 60 piece Metropole Orchestra and legendary Nona Hendryx. The show will go out live on producer Co de Kloet's national Dutch Radio 6 program "Co Live"—listen here—and will be filmed for broadcast later this year.
In 2012 Gary was profiled in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune to coincide with the release of his supergroup Gods and Monsters' new studio album "The Ordeal of Civility" (Knitting Factory), produced by Jerry Harrison which is receiving rave reviews—4 Stars in MOJO and named one of the Best of the Year in Rock's Backpages. He released a vinyl only album in the Czech Republic "Gary Lucas Plays Bohemian Classics" (Faust Records) featuring his solo acoustic arrangements of Dvorak and other Czech classical composers. That year Gary performed at the Grammy Museum in LA as part of their "Great Guitar" Series which further bolstered his credentials as "one of the best and most original guitarists in America" (Rolling Stone).
Gary just wrapped recording the debut album of his psychedelic dance music project Wild Rumpus with his partner Colleen "Cosmo" Murphy a/k/a DJ Cosmo, and their latest 12 inch vinyl single "Cloudhopping" sold out its first pressing in one week. He recently premiered his new live solo guitar score for Luis Bunuel's "El Angel Exterminador" at the 33rd Havana Film Festival and rocked the 48th New York Film Festival with the US premiere of his Spanish "Dracula" project performing his original solo guitar score live to accompany a screening of the legendary 1931 film.
In the previous few years, Gary Lucas made successful performing debuts in China, Cuba, the Canary Islands, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico alongside his usual non-stop touring in Europe and North America, and is coming to BAM's new Fisher Space in Brooklyn in Oct. 2013 for two nights with the expanded concert version of his celebrated album of 30's Chinese pop, "The Edge of Heaven". Featuring Gary, his band, and two female vocalists from Shanghai, the project received standing ovations in June 2011 at both the 64th Holland Festival in Amsterdam and the Nijmegen MusicMeeting. His recent album, "Rishte" (Harmonia Mundi), a blues/raga collaboration with Indian vocalist Najma Akhtar, made #4 on the World Music Charts Europe and the pair garnered a 5 star review in The Financial Times for their live show and an ovation at WOMAD Los Palmas. He released his first ever coloured vinyl single "Music for the Eden Project" on 5nakefork Records the previous year to acclaim which has been used as the soundtrack for UK visual artist Paul McGowan's installation at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
Gary Lucas tours the world relentlessly both solo and with several different ensembles, including his longtime band Gods and Monsters, whose ranks once included the late singer Jeff Buckley. Gary co-wrote two of Jeff Buckley's most famous hits, "Grace" and "Mojo Pin", which opened Jeff's double platinum Sony album "Grace", which MOJO magazine named the #1 Modern Classic Rock Album. Their early collaborations can also be heard on the Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas album "Songs to No One", which charted internationally with worldwide sales approaching 100,000. Other notable Lucas albums include his recently reissued 2001 album "The Edge of Heaven", an album of Gary's lush arrangements of 30's Chinese pop songs, which made #1 on the World Music charts and received rave reviews around the world. To date he has released over 30 acclaimed albums in multiple genres, and performed in over 40 countries.
Gary Lucas leads several different ensembles, including his longtime NYC-based band Gods and Monsters, a super-group psychedelic jam band based around Gary's guitar playing, singing, and Grammy-nominated songwriting, featuring Billy Ficca (Television) on drums, Ernie Brooks (Modern Lovers) on bass, Jason Candler (Hungry March Band) on alto sax and Joe Hendel on trombone and keyboards. With their illustrious pedigrees they comprise an art-rock supergroup comprising a major cross-section of the rock avant-garde (Beefheart, Buckley, Television, Modern Lovers)—Time Out New York raving "The group is mind-blowing!" and The New Yorker hailing them as "An underground-rock fan's dream team".
Gods and Monsters have toured extensively in Europe over the years, most recently at festivals in the Austrian Tirol, in the Netherlands, and in Moscow and Saint Petersburg Russia in the company of former Talking Heads keyboardist and hit record producer Jerry Harrison (Live, OAR), who produced their latest studio album. Harrison joined the band live at South by Southwest in Austin Texas where Gary Lucas was given an unheard of double-length showcase for both his silent film/live music project "Gary Lucas Plays The Golem" and for Gods and Monsters, which garnered significant press attention—and Harrison played with them live in NYC at the CMJ Festival and also joined them at New York's Knitting Factory for a concert with Czech underground band The Plastic People, where the group was greeted backstage by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and David Byrne. Gods and Monsters recently celebrated their 20th anniversary in June 2009 with an all-star concert at the Gramercy Theater in NYC, produced by Live Nation and featuring guest appearances from Gary's friends Alan Vega (Suicide), Jon Spencer (Blues Explosion) and Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith).
"Coming Clean", Gary's previous Gods and Monsters album was released in 4 different international editions: in Russia under the title "Follow"; in the USA, Canada, and Japan; in the UK and France; and in the Benelux. The reviews were uniformly excellent, with Rolling Stone raving: "Gary Lucas is one of the best and most original guitarists in America...a songwriter of established invention...he plays astounding guitar throughout, but always for the sake of the song." The album received 4 star reviews in MOJO, Uncut, and Record Collector, and also in France's Crossroads and Vibrations. One of the standout tracks on "Coming Clean" was Gary's song "Follow", an anthem he wrote to comfort the victims of AIDS, which was performed in 2007 at a rally in the gay club Crobar in Manhattan attacking the Bush administration's proposed anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment. The song was introduced and sung by Gary's friend comedienne Sandra Bernhard, who performed with Gary on guitar.
In additional to raves from music critics, Gary's work and guitar playing has received praise from his musical peers. He contributed a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Ain't Got You" to "Light of Day", a Bruce Springsteen tribute album for charity, which prompted the Boss himself to remark after hearing Lucas perform at the famous Stone Pony in Asbury Park: "You're a phenomenal guitarist—and your version of my song was phenomenal!!." Gary also recently received high compliments from Lou Reed, who told him regarding his collaborations with Jeff Buckley, "You're guitar playing was lovely—just lovely!" and described Gary's solo version of his song "European Son" as "Beyond cool! I could listen to you play for hours, Gary". The highest praise though for Gary came from his original musical mentor and hero Leonard Bernstein, who after hearing Lucas play lead guitar in the European premiere of his "Mass" in Vienna 1973 with the Yale Symphony Orchestra enthusiastically remarked, "You were really wailing!"
In addition to Gods and Monsters, Gary co-leads with composer/musician Phillip Johnston the free jazz all instrumental 7-piece ensemble Fast 'N' Bulbous, dedicated to the music of his mentor Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) and featuring some of NYC's greatest improvisers. Applying a free-wheeling horn and guitar-driven approach to the knotty avant-blues/rock/jazz compositions of Van Vliet, they've made triumphant appearances at the Saalfelden Festival in Austria, the Frankfurt Jazz Festival, and the Lisbon Jazz Em Agosto Festival. Their debut album "Pork Chop Blue Around the Rind" received much favorable praise worldwide, was profiled on NPR, and charted on college radio in the US. An extensive European tour which followed saw them selling out shows at the London Jazz Festival and at Amsterdam's BimHuis, as well as concerts in Bern, Vienna, Schwaz, and Llubljana Slovenia. In 2009 the band released their second Cuneiform album "Waxed Oop (An impetuous stream bubbled up)" which received rave reviews internationally.
Gary also played for several years as part of the reunion of Captain Beefheart alumni known as The Magic Band, performing with them at the UK's famed Glastonbury Festival, London's Shepherd's Bush Empire, a sold-out night at Royal Festival Hall, and at the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in LA where they were introduced by Beefheart/Magic Band fan Matt Groening (The Simpsons), and in Camber Sands UK. They made several extensive UK and European tours, which took them to Amsterdam's Paradiso, Belgrade Serbia, and to Sweden, where they performed live on Swedish national television. They released a rehearsal CD "Back to the Front", cited as one of the albums of the year in The Wire, a live double album "21st Century Mirror Men", and a live DVD/documentary, "Crow's Milk" with narration by the late John Peel, one of Beefheart's biggest champions. In fact, the legendary UK underground tastemaking DJ John Peel became one of Gary Lucas' biggest champions shortly after The Magic Band recorded a live session for him, subsequently spinning several cuts from Gary Lucas' solo albums on his widely listened-to program on the BBC on 2 separate broadcasts shortly before he died.
Other long running media champions of Gary's work on UK radio include the late legendary world music maven, producer and author Charlie Gillett, who invited Gary to perform live on his 20th anniversary show in 2006. Verity Sharp and Fiona Talkington also have featured Gary's work on their BBC 3 programme Late Junction, as has club music DJ king Rob Da Bank, who has repeatedly added the avant-dance music of Wild Rumpus, Gary's DJ project with DJ Cosmo, to his popular BBC radio program.
GARY LUCAS established his reputation as a guitarist's guitarist with 5 years spent playing with his childhood hero, the visionary avant-garde vocalist/composer/bandleader Captain Beefheart (a/k/a Don Van Vliet).
A graduate of Yale University, where he was a DJ and served as Music Director at WYBC FM, Gary's childhood dream of joining Beefheart's band came true when he recorded two Captain Beefheart albums in the early 80's on Virgin Records, "Doc at the Radar Station" (1980) and "Ice Cream for Crow" (1982), which featured his explosive solo renditions of Don Van Vliet's twisted instrumental compositions, "Flavor Bud Living" and "Evening Bell"—about which the latter piece Esquire wrote "Gary Lucas apparently grew extra fingers in order to negotiate his way through it". These recordings put Gary on the musical map as a force to be reckoned with, and laid the groundwork for his subsequent career.
In 1988, Gary Lucas mounted his first solo guitar show at New York's downtown mecca for avant-garde and alternative music, the Knitting Factory, and was an instant hit. The club became the launching pad for Gary's ensuing European success, as he was invited shortly after his first Knitting Factory gig to appear at the prestigious 1988 Berlin JazzFest, where a performance of his solo piece "Verklarte Kristallnacht" was broadcast live from the festival on WDR on the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht and absolutely stunned the audience. The Berlin Morgenpost raved in a review the next day: "It is Lucas!"
To date Gary Lucas has released over 20 highly acclaimed albums in various different genres (psychedelic rock, solo acoustic, world music, electronic dance, rock-jazz, classical, ambient), played as a guest on over 50 other albums, and has performed in 40 countries around the world—from Tokyo to Tangier to Tel Aviv.
In summer 2009 Gary made well received debuts in Latin America (closing the 1st International Sao Paulo Fantasy Film Festival SP Terror accompanying the silent horror film "The Golem" and performing and recording in Bogota Colombia with legendary Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham and in South Korea, appearing at the 5th Jecheon International Film and Music Festival with "The Golem". He has performed in India with DJ Cosmo in their Wild Rumpus project, and made his Australian debut in the company of UK electronica band Future Sound of London. He returned recently for 4 triumphant shows with "The Golem" at festivals in Sydney and Melbourne. He has been a regular visitor to London's Royal Festival Hall (6 separate appearances) and Amsterdam's famed Paradiso (over 20 separate appearances since 1980). He's expanded his touring base to Russia with 5 separate appearances in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In summer 2006 he performed his original solo guitar score accompanying the silent classic German horror film "The Golem" (1920, d. Paul Wegener and Carl Boese) in landmark cinemas in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, appeared on national tv before an estimated 50 million viewers, and was profiled in the Russian edition of Rolling Stone.
Much of Gary's music has a ghostly haunted feel to it, particularly his film scores and famous songs such as "Grace"—and stems from a childhood love of fantasy, science fiction and horror films. And of course his band is named Gods and Monsters! His very first scoring assignment was for a documentary entitled "Aquatic Ecology" which was narrated by his childhood hero Rod Serling of "Twilight Zone" fame. Later at Yale he co-founded the long running legendary Things that Go Bump in the Night midnight movie series with his pal Bill Moseley, who went on to become a noted horror film star.
Since debuting his live score for "The Golem" (a Kabbalistic tale of a Jewish Frankenstein) in the company of his original collaborator, keyboardist/composer Walter Horn in 1989 at the Museum of the Moving Image on a commission from the BAM Next Wave Festival, he's played with "The Golem" in over 20 countries—including sold-out performances at the Venice Biennale, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, London's Royal Festival Hall, in Budapest, in festivals in Spain, Switzerland and Italy, opening the New York Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center, as part of a weeklong artist-in-residency at the Quebec City Summer Festival, and in Prague, home of the Golem. He has also performed with the film at Atlanta's Dragon*Con, the largest science fiction festival in the world.
But "The Golem" was only the beginning of Gary's live music and film work. To date he has composed 7 different live music and film solo guitar scores. He debuted 3 of them at the Havana Film Festival beginning in 2009 over 3 consecutive years, starting with perhaps his most popular live solo guitar score to date accompanying the 1931 Spanish-language "Dracula" (d. Henry Melford) which he went on to perform at the 48th New York Film Festival, at the Transylvania Film Festival performing outside of an abandoned castle, at Royal Festival Hall for the London Jazz Festival where his performance received 4 stars in The Guardian, and in Lodz Poland's Cinergia Festival where he received the Golden Boot Award for his score. Following Spanish "Dracula" Lucas debuted his second live score at the Havana Film Festival accompanying the 1966 Brazilian cult horror classic "Esta Noite Encarnerei no teu Cadaver (This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse)" directed by Jose Mojica Marins, who also stars as the legendary horror icon Coffin Joe. The previous year in Havana Gary premiered his score for Luis Bunuel's 1962 surrealist classic "El Angel Exterminador" to close what Lucas refers to as his "Dirty Havana Trilogy".
Other Lucas live music and film projects include "Sounds of the Surreal", a program commissioned by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, accompanying 3 short silent film classics by Rene Clair, Fernand Leger, and Ladislaw Starewicz, with his original guitar scores—which is frequently double-billed with Lucas' "Monsters from the Id", where Gary improvises live soundtracks to clips from sound horror and fantasy classics by Roman Polanski, Mario Bava, Ray Harryhausen, and others. He recently premiered a new expanded version of this work "Monsters from the Id (Rated X)" in Kromeriz Czech Republic. Gary presented the European premiere of "Sounds of the Surreal" in Vienna in September 2007, and in February 2009 played a triumphant performance before a full house in the Wintergarden of NYC's World Financial Center. He also has composed a live silent film score is for the Lon Chaney film "The Unholy Three" (1925, d. Tod Browning) on commission from the Film Society of Lincoln Center which premiered to rave notices at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater in October 2009. And he co composed for the 2009 Holland Festival a live score for Abel Gance's 1919 "J'Accuse" with Reza Namavar featuring the Ensemble Kameleon which received standing ovations in Amsterdam.
Gary Lucas is also working with the UK-based DJ Cosmo (Colleen Murphy) on their dance oriented duo project called Wild Rumpus. Their first single "Musical Blaze-Up" sold out it's 12 inch vinyl run in 2 days upon release in May 2007, was played extensively on the BBC and on European radio, received rave reviews in Time Out London, Time Out New York, and HITS Magazine, and was chosen as one of the Best of the Week by iTunes UK, who made it available for download on a special sampler alongside tracks by Prince, Crowded House and Gwen Stefani. Their second single "Purple Somersault" was similarly well received and sold out its vinyl pressing almost immediately. Gary has been performing one-off sets with Cosmo as Wild Rumpus in a variety of exotic locales, including high profile gigs in Romania and India, and at the London ICA. They made their live NYC debut before a full house at famed New York dance club Cielo. A third single "Rock the Joint" featuring UK Human Beatbox Champion Beardyman entered the UK dance charts on the heels of a hand-animated video by Tabitha O'Connell (Ren and Stimpy) which has had close to 200,000 hits to date. A fourth single "Kazan" was released in Japan in summer 2009, and their new single "Cloud Hopping" sold out its vinyl run in 2 days. Their debut Wild Rumpus album is scheduled for release in 2012.
Over a long performing career Gary Lucas has played and collaborated with Leonard Bernstein, Captain Beefheart, Jeff Buckley, Bryan Ferry, Lou Reed, John Cale, Chris Cornell, the Plastic People of the Universe, Robyn Hitchock, Nick Cave, David Johansen, Alan Vega, jazz greats Roswell Rudd, Steve Swallow, Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, the Willem Breuker Kollektieff, Beatrice Demi Mondaine, Cheyenne Schiavone, Melissa Mars, Danie Yvinec, Yael Naim and David Donatien, Sussan Deyhim, Institutional Prostitution (Sadaf Ha and Melissa Gagne), Bill Moseley, Moris Tepper, Cliff Martinez, Eric Drew Feldman, Rick Snyder, Phillip Johnston, Jesse Krakow, Mari Conti, Vernon Reid, Qian Yi, Anton Fier, Jon Langford, Tony Maimone, Ninet Tayeb, Anath Benais, Bob Holman, Greg Cohen, Piers Faccini, Ensemble Kameleon, Marc Ribot, Dean Bowman, Jennifer Charles, Lee Ranaldo, Mary Margaret O'Hara, John Zorn, Peter Stampfel, Patti Smith, Lenny Kaye, Jon Spencer, Mike Edison, Kevin Coyne, Italian music stars Vinicio Capposella, Enrico Ruggeri, Fausto Mesolella and Alessio Franchini, Riz Maslen, Claudia Brucken (Propaganda), Paul Humphreys (OMD). Future Sound of London, Joan Osborne (Gary co wrote Joan's Grammy nominated song "Spider Web" from her triple platinum album "Relish"), Najma Ahktar, Bernie Worrell, Haydee and Suylen Milanes, Los Van Van, Sexto Sentido, Mo Hai Jin, Sally Kwok, Jerry Harrison, Karsh Kale, Essra Mohawk, Matthew Sweet, Iggy Pop, Van Dyke Parks, Dead Combo, Adrian Sherwood, Boris Grebentchikov, Eric Mingus, Richard Barone, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Bob Neuwirth, Geoff Muldaur, John Sebastian, Allen Ginsberg, Nona Hendryx, DJ Spooky, Damo Suzuki and Michael Karoli (Can), Dr. John, Graham Parker, Bob Weir, David Krakauer, Frank London, Steve Bernstein's Sex Mob, Medeski Martin and Wood, Tanger, Jean Francois Pauvros, Min Xiao Fen, Sonya Cohen, Celest Chong, Jonathan Kane, Jozef Van Wissem, Fred Schneider (B 52s), Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Gov't. Mule), Salman Ahmad (Junoon), Dibyarka Chatterjee, DG307, Lou Pallo and the Les Paul Trio, Jamie Saft, Bobby Previte, Richard Mader, Pavel Ryba, Orlando Sanchez "Cubajazz", Danae Blanco, Vrat Brabenec of the Plastic People, Pavel Zajicek of DG307, David Konopnicki and Autoryno, Project Object, The Magic Band (John French, Denny Walley, Rockette Morton and Michael Traylor), Jann Klose, The Metropole Orchestra, Co de Kloet, Amanda Palmer, Mother Falcon, Anne Waldman, Lukas Ligeti, Emir Kusturica and the No Smoking Orchestra, Genesis P. Orridge and many others.
Some of these collaborations can be heard on his 20 year rarities retrospective album "Improve the Shining Hour" which also features excerpts of his film and tv music for ABC News. Exhibiting a flair for composing soundtrack music going back to early student films he made as a boy in both the narrative and documentary genres, Gary has gone on to score 8 documentaries for ABC shows "20/20" and "Turning Point", as well as music for Showtime and HBO documentaries. In 2001 Gary scored the Oscar nominated Maysles Films documentary "Lalee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton" for HBO, which recently screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of their Maysles Films 50 Year Retrospective, and about which Variety wrote: "Gary Lucas' Delta blues guitar music adds vivid color to this report from America's forgotten underbelly." And he's composed music for documentaries shown on Showtime ("Trust Me"), PBS ("Mayor of the West Side", which was nominated for an Emmy), and at international film festivals ("The Legacy of Jedwabne", which was also broadcast internationally).
Additionally Gary's services as producer have resulted in several major label albums for composer/saxophonists Tim Berne and Peter Gordon on Columbia Records and Columbia Masterworks retrospectively, as well as for the French avant rock band Tanger (French Mercury).
The breadth and scope of Gary Lucas' work is impressive, and he straddles genres with ease. His 2001 entry in the World Music category, "The Edge of Heaven" a dreamy melodic album featuring his arrangements of Chinese pop music of the 1930s, made #1 on the World Music Charts, and garnered an unbelievable amount of international attention, England's Q Magazine awarding it 4 Stars, and MOJO writing: "It is simply gorgeous." In addition, the album was chosen as one of the Best Discs of the year in France's Liberation newspaper. Gary's experiences making the album also was also the subject of a lengthy profile for the album in The Wall Street Journal, as well as an NPR interview. The title song from the album was featured on the soundtrack to the Bill Moyers PBS Series "Becoming American: The Chinese Experience". The album was re released on the Knitting Factory label in 2010 with additional bonus tracks. And the previous year Gary premiered his expanded concert version for the Holland Festival in Amsterdam featuring two handpicked female vocalists from Shanghai, Sally Kwok and Mo Hai Jin, and his band Gods and Monsters—and received standing ovations two nights in a row.
Gary's most recent foray into World Music was a duo album collaboration with the UK Indian based vocalist Najma Akhtar, who has released many solo albums of her own and has collaborated in the past with Page and Plant and Andy Summers. Gary and Najma's album "Rishte", an album fusing folk, blues, raga, rock and more, was released on World Village/Harmonia Mundi worldwide in summer 2009 and continues to receive accolades around the world, including a 5 star review in the Financial Times.
The critical raves go hand in hand with Gary's international press standing.
In the previous few years Gary has been profiled and interviewed in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, DownBeat, the Columbia University Spectator, Record Collector, The Wire, MOJO, the International Herald Tribune, the French daily paper Liberation, featured on the cover of the Jewish Weekly Forward, the national Dutch newspaper Het Parool, and was on the cover this year of two Portuguese national newspapers.
Noteworthy live appearances include a specially commissioned concert at the Czech Embassy in Washington DC by invitation of the Czech ambassador to the US spotlighting Gary's solo guitar arrangements of Czech classical music in honor of the 14th anniversary of the Czech Velvet Revolution (Gary is of Bohemian descent on his father's side). Gary has also made several solo tours of Spain, which resulted in many media appearances on national Basque radio and TV, and recently joined forces with the famous Spanish spoken word artist Bruno Galindo which resulted in a sold out appearance in Mexico's Casa de Lago in the fall of 2008 and several very well received shows in NYC fusing Galindo's surrealistic poetry with Gary's ambient guitar.
Gary Lucas has also lectured over the years on his life and career in music, his songwriting technique, extensive collaborations, and the music business from the inside, at the Amsterdam Music Conservatorum, Yale University (his alma mater), the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, New York University and Columbia University. He also has given guitar master classes at Amsterdam's Paradiso, the Amsterdam Music Conservatorum, and at the University of Hawaii. In March 2006 he gave a lecture and solo performance at McGill University in Montreal for a course taught by Prof. Sandy Pearlman (Blue Oyster Cult/Clash producer) and Music School Dean Don McLean entitled "Bruckner and Heavy Metal", where Gary performed his "Bruckner Fantasia" based on themes from Bruckner's 8th Symphony, which was filmed and broadcast on CTV, the Canadian national television network. He also recently gave a Master Class and lecture at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, as part of their "Eyes of the Masters" series.
Recent soundtrack work includes an original music for Sebastian Doggart's "American Faust: From Condi to Neo-Condi", nominated for the Maysles Award for Best Documentary at the Starz Denver Film Festival. "Trust Me", a Showtime documentary about a summer camp for Christian, Muslim and Jewish children, and a score for award winning Polish film maker Slawomir Grunberg's "They Called Me Mayer July" (2009 documentary) for whom he also scored his searing "Bed and Breakfast 9/11", which was shown on PBS. In addition he scored and is interviewed in Grunberg's "The Legacy of Jedwabne," which is continually playing the international film festival circuit and has been broadcast internationally. He also has contributed music to several BBC documentaries as well as a Canadian Movie of the Week, "Dragon Boys." Gary composed and performed an original score for a documentary about American Ivy League collegiate football, "For Love and Honor" (2008, d. Erik Anjou) as well as a score for the Emmy award winning documentary filmmaker Peter Bull for his latest film "Dirty Business—Clean Coal and the Battle for Our Energy Future", funded and commissioned by the Center for Investigative Research.
Other collaborations include several albums with Dutch lutist Jozef Van Wissem, including "The Universe of Absence," and "Diploplia", and the pair toured and performed live on the Dutch national tv network VPRO show "Free Sounds".
In addition, Gary recently released a collaborative album with UK electronica ensemble The Dark Poets (James Hunter and Sarah Hilliard) "Beyond the Pale" on the Some Bizarre label. In a review of the album the Independent (UK) wrote: "Gary Lucas is possibly the world's most popular avant rock guitarist."
In April 2009 Gary Lucas released a collaborative album with Swiss avant garde guitarist Gerald Zbinden entitled "Down the Rabbit Hole", an epic sound phantasmagoria without words that is racking up impressive reviews internationally. Moors Magazine (Holland) wrote: "Sound so sophisticated and so unusual, they magically transport you without the aid of overdubs. This album is an absolute must!" In Spring 2009 came a collaboration "The Exploding Note Theory" with Italian psych rockers Gallo + The Roosters which was chosen as Album of the Month in Blow Up magazine (Italy).
In November 2009 Gary Lucas released on Knitting Factory Records an album of his spiritual roots duo project Chase the Devil with jazz/blues vocalist Dean Bowman (Screaming Headless Torsos, Don Byron). The duo recorded their debut album with Steve Addabo (Shawn Colvin) and embarked on a well received European tour spanning 6 countries in Nov. 2009. The album received 4 stars in DownBeat and a track from the album "Hinay Ma Tov" was Song of the Day on National Public Radio. Chase the Devil made the short-list of Best Blues Album of the Year in DownBeat.
Also in the works for a 2012 release is a new album of instrumental versions of classic Rolling Stones hits arranged and performed by Gary in the company of several outstanding Latin American musicians, recorded in Bogota and produced by legendary Stones producer Andrew Loog Oldham.
All in all, GARY LUCAS continues to live up the credo of his favorite artist, Bob Dylan—"He not busy being born is busy dying"—by continuing to record, release and perform an astonishing variety of music in as many arenas of the global village as possible.
Gary Lucas makes his home in New York City.
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Gary Lucas first started playing guitar at the age of 9 on the advice of his dad ("Gary, how'd you like to play a musical instrument? How about the guitar?").
His first aspiration was to master the theme from "Exodus" which was a big hit at the time for Pat Boone and Ferrante and Teicher. Lessons however lasted only a few months as it became obvious Gary would rather not practice scales and patterns, but not before he nailed his first guitar hero Duane Eddy's statement-of-first-principles "Dance With the Guitar Man" (besides, the cheap rented practice guitar was causing major blisters to erupt). Simultaneously, as a result of scoring a perfect 100 on an elementary school musical aptitude test, Gary, on the advice of the school band director, took up the French horn which he played throughout his elementary, junior high and high school years in various all-city bands and orchestras of the Syracuse school system, before being summarily thrown out of the band for wearing sandals to rehearsals (a nascent beatnik versus an uptight fascist band director). He never was much good on the horn anyway as he barely had enough upper lip for a good embouchure.
Anyway, throughout the sixties he was in and out of various "combos" as they were then referred to, and later, "groups" and "bands" of the pickup variety. Gary has fond memories of wading through pools of vomit at Syracuse University frat houses to get paid for some of these gigs (which mainly consisted of playing 30 minute versions of "Inna Gadda Da Vida").
His senior year of high school he got a gig working in the documentary film unit of the Upstate Medical Center and scored and played on his first film assignment, "Aquatic Ecology" (narrated by childhood hero and upstate New York resident Rod Serling).
During his sophomore year of college, wherein he was employed as music director of Yale's radio station WYBC FM, he and his buddies made a pilgrimage to New York City to catch the East Coast debut performance of another hero, Captain Beefheart, an event which changed his life.
Vowing that if he ever did anything professional in music in the future, it would be to join Beefheart's Magic Band, Gary went on to interview and become fast friends with Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), until after years of hanging around backstage at his gigs, Gary summoned up the courage to reveal that yes, he played guitar and yes, he would love to audition for the Magic Band.
It was a few years before that goal would be realized; in the meantime he got a gig playing electric guitar in the European premiere of Leonard Bernstein's Mass in Vienna in 1973, along with the Yale Symphony Orchestra and assorted singers and dancers (broadcast on PBS).
A two year sojourn upon graduation to Taipei Taiwan found Gary playing with a mixed group of Chinese, Swedish and Jewish American kids (including his exclusive tee shirt manufacturer, Hank Frisch, on blues harp) called the O-Bay-Gone Band (translation: The Bullshit Band, in Taiwanese), a gig that brought them much local TV exposure. He returned to the States at the end of 1976 and immediately renewed his acquaintance with Captain Beefheart.
Upon returning Stateside Gary finally hooked up with Captain Beefheart. When he informed his parents by phone that he intended to leave his day job to concentrate on working with Beefheart, his mother replied, "The guitar?! Murray! He's talking about the guitar again!" He went on to play the solo guitar pieces "Flavour Bud Living" and "Evening Bell" on the Doc at the Radar Station and Ice Cream for Crow albums (Virgin Records), becoming a full-fledged member of the Magic Band for Ice Cream for Crow, which established his reputation as a stunning, accomplished interpreter of the highly idiosyncratic and complex Beefheart oeuvre (Rolling Stone wrote that "Lucas should receive some sort of award for finger contortion" in describing his brilliant execution of the fiendishly difficult "Evening Bell" piece, which took 6 weeks just to learn and memorize by ear). This was the first glowing review in a career marked by incredibly favorable press raves for Gary's guitar playing and later, his own music.
After touring Europe with the Magic Band at the beginning of the '80s Beefheart decided to retire from music for a life devoted to painting. Not sure how to continue his playing career after playing in what Lucas regarded as the #1 avant-garde rock band in the world, Gary decided to produce albums for other artists while biding his time to figure out his next playing move, producing two acclaimed albums for CBS Masterworks and Columbia Records by avant-sax players/composers Peter Gordon and Tim Berne respectively.
In 1988 Gary finally mounted his own solo guitar show at the mecca of New York new music, the Knitting Factory and was an instant hit. The New York Times raved, "Guitarist of 1000 Ideas" for his show which drew upon the corpus of blues, rock, jazz, folk, classical and electronic music all brought to bear with the intense showmanship which is a hallmark of Lucas' style. Through the use of digital delays Gary was able to produce the sound of a virtual one-man-band, producing orchestral textures and colors that rival an army of players.
Through the positive word of mouth that rapidly increased his reputation in New York, Gary was invited to play his solo European debut at the 1988 Berlin Jazz Festival, with the same resulting effect ("It is Lucas!" raved the Berlin Morgenpost).
Subsequently he undertook many trips abroad to perform either solo, or with his band Gods and Monsters, at rock, blues, jazz, folk and experimental music festivals, and on the theater and club circuit.
Gary Lucas at the sold-out London Tribute to Jeff Buckley 9/9/17
photo by Michael Arkk
Gary Lucas Live at the Monk Club Rome Italy with The Niro 12/27/19
photo copyright Mario Rimati
Gary Lucas performs solo acoustic before the General Assembly of the UN for International Holocaust Remembrance Day 1/27/17
photo by Jason Candler
Piazza Venezia in Rome 12/17/18
photo by David Combusti
Gary Lucas in Shanghai 11/9/16
With U.S. Consul General in Milan Phillip Reeker at a reception at his residence sponsored by the U.S. Consulate in Milan 3/21/15
photo by Simonetta Romagnolo
Gary Lucas Live at the Monk Club Rome Italy with The Niro 12/27/19
photo copyright Mario Rimati