MusicZoom (Italy), 1/20/2020The Niro featuring Gary Lucas – The Complete Jeff Buckley & Gary Lucas Songbook
The meeting between The Niro project led by Davide Combusti and guitarist Gary Lucas picks up a moment in the career of the American guitarist between 1991 and 1992, in which he performed together with Jeff Buckley in the band Gods and Monsters. Twelve songs sprang up, here reproposed by two original artists, who seek their own way without wanting at all costs to clone that material that was born in an unrepeatable moment. Gary Lucas has played with many of the greats of rock and jazz music, has recorded among many with Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, with Jeff Buckley the 1994 album "Grace" which is now in the history of rock. The singer Davide Combusti is well known in the environment of independent rock productions in Italy and perfectly at ease with Lucas' music. Together with them there are Francesco Arpino on piano, keyboards and guitars, Phil Spalding on bass, Puccio Panettieri on drums, Mattia Boschi on cello and Maurizio Mariani on bass in four tracks. For the younger generations who have not had the opportunity to listen to Jeff Buckley live here is a record that has a strong emotional charge, very special also for the way it deals with the material in question. Everything was recorded in Rome by Matteo Spinazzi and mixed by Francesco Lo Cascio. To be listened, of course, also live, if the opportunity presents itself.
Bruce Lee Gallanter's Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter NYC 1/17/20This Week's Dynamic Discs begin with this Treasure:
THE NIRO Featuring GARY LUCAS / DAVIDE COMBUSTI / FRANCESCO ARPINO / et al - The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook (Esordisco 1902; Italy)
The Niro features Gary Lucas on lead guitars, Davide Combusti on vocals, Francesco Arpino on keyboards, Phil Spalding on bass and Puccio Panettieri on drums. When Jeff Buckley came to NYC in early 1990's, he was a relative unknown. He soon played at a historic memorial/tribute concert to his long-estranged father, Tim Buckley and wowed the audience due to amazing singing. Former Capt. Beefheart guitar great, Gary Lucas, began collaborating with Jeff Buckley, writing a dozen songs over a ten month period. Each song turned out to be something special. Young Mr. Buckley soon became the lead singer & rhythm guitarist in Mr. Lucas's band Gods and Monsters, who got signed to Columbia Records. I caught that version of Gods and Monsters play at St. Ann's in March of 1992 and they were extraordinary! Sadly, Mr. Buckley soon left the band to pursue a solo career, taking two of the songs for his first solo effort with "Grace" becoming the title song. In 1997, Mr. Buckley began work on his second solo effort, relocating to Memphis to record. In May of that year, Mr. Buckley decided to go swimming in the Mississippi River and soon drowned, ending his life at just 30. In 2002, an album called 'Songs to No One' was released and included the songs that Buckley and Lucas had recorded as demos. And now, nearly three decades after they were written, Gary Lucas teams up with an Italian rock band known as The Niro to perform all 12 songs that he and Mr. Buckley had written together. This includes five songs which have never appeared on a legit release before now.
Although I recognize the names of 100's of Italian musicians from jazz and progressive bands, old & new, I hadn't heard of most of the musicians here. It turns out that their bassist, Phil Spalding, did play with GTR (w/Steve Howe & Steve Hackett). This disc begins with the five unreleased songs, all of which are superb. The opening song is "No One Must Find You Here" and it begins with Mr. Lucas distinctive swirling guitars. The lead singer here, Davide Combusti, has a strong voice which is similar to Mr. Buckley's yet it is still his own. And similar to Mr. Buckley's voice, he sounds like he was influenced by Robert Plant when he sang for Led Zep. It is also you will either really love or not, I am indeed impressed. Both the songs and performances are inspired throughout. The first song ends with an impressive solo guitar section, which is a perfect conclusion to a great opening song. What makes this disc so special is the endlessly inventive guitar playing of Mr. Lucas, inserting nifty flourishes of electric & acoustic guitars with the sly sonic seasoning of the assorted effects that Lucas has long mastered. The feeling that I get when listening to this disc is that is sounds like the long lost album that Mr. Buckley and Mr. Lucas started in 1992 and never really finished. Jeff Buckley was a major player in his own right with many fans around the world. His career was cut short by his early death with just a handful of releases under his belt. Hopefully this great disc will be heard by some of his passionate fans since it is well worth hearing. Quite a marvelous effort from Gary Lucas and The Niro!
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
Mescalina Magazine (Italy), December 2019The Niro and Gary Lucas Live at Monk, Rome
Gary Lucas and The Niro, together with Francesco Arpino, arrive in Rome to present The complete Jeff Buckley & Gary Lucas songbook. The homage to Jeff Buckley and giving light to songs that had never been published are perfectly centered objectives thanks to the confluence of different factors.
The first is, undeniably, the mastery of Gary Lucas, whose fingerpicking emerges bright both in his acoustic solo and in songs like She is free which he calls good-naturedly "more commercial". Despite his high specific weight in the history of music (he also played for Captain Beefheart, so to speak) the guitarist has no way of acting as a primadonna: he seems rather, with a good-natured fatherly spirit, to try to encourage his stage mates to pull out the maximum, beyond any alleged limit. And here is The Niro, or Davide Combusti, takes flight on No One Must Find You Here. Here the Francesco Arpino's Roland innervates a really exciting Mojo Pin, going to dig into the soul unknown furrows.
A second factor is the harmony between the three musicians which creates a truly unique atmosphere in the room. It will be that the armchairs help to make sense of recollection, it will be that the songs that Lucas wrote with Jeff warm heart and memory, the result is a respectful listening, in which you will be enchanted by the vocal and musical feats that materialize on stage, which one is almost afraid of ruining them by singing (and in fact one remained shy at Gary's request to accompany Grace's "waiting in the fire" all together).
The guitars seem to sing in an angelic choir, desolate and full of vitality. And this fragility that seems to try to break its chains is perhaps the trait that united Jeff and his father Tim. It is no coincidence that when the concert seems over Gary asks if you want to hear a song by Tim, and the answer can only be yes. Pleasant Street is an unexpected and highly appreciated pearl.
On a very high quality evening, the peak is still represented by Grace. The union between the guitar that seems to take you by the hand and take you up, between the moon "asking to stay", and the desperation of "I feel them drown my name" is something that burns inside when you listen to it.
All that remains is to thank Gary, Davide and Francesco for bringing us somehow the magic of the period in which Jeff and Gary met. And for doing it in a personal and unique way.
12/27/2019 - by Arianna Marsico
NonsenseMag (Italy), December 2019The Niro and Gary Lucas, in joyful memory of Jeff
Friday 20 December 2019, Serraglio (MI). On a very rainy evening, the Milanese restaurant is about to welcome the Roman singer-songwriter The Niro, aka Davide Combusti, and Gary Lucas, historian guitarist of the superfine class, who in the early 90s was discoverer, mentor and friend of that crystalline talent of world music that was Jeff Buckley.
A unique encounter between two personalities at the antipodes, but nonetheless complementary, as we will see in the live, led the two to give life to "The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook", an album that we define as a simple tribute to the music produced together by Jeff and Gary it appears somewhat reductive: the presence in it of five unpublished pieces ("No one must find you here", "Story without words", "In the cellar", "Distortion" and "Bluebird blues") interpreted for the first time since Davide's poignant voice, he seems to want to find the framework of a work that was left unfinished partly for Jeff's new paths, partly above all for his tragic disappearance.
We were immediately struck by the relaxed and convivial atmosphere that arises between artists and the public during the evening: the meticulous Gary, who went on stage to check the equipment and applauded by some fans in the front row, appears surprisingly next to them for exchange two words and take some photos, demonstrating a frankly unexpected affability and spontaneity, with which they will be able to further surprise us once on stage.
The evening officially begins at 22:20, with The Niro and Gary taking their places on stage, flanked by two excellent musicians such as cellist Mattia Boschi and producer and multi-instrumentalist Francesco Arpino (piano and guitar). We immediately understood that a special alchemy was created between the four: the initial attack with "No One Must Find You Here" and "Story Without Words" hypnotizes everyone present. Lucas's guitar bewitches us with his notes between blues and psychedelia, while the voice of The Niro offers a master interpretation, showing everyone not to disfigure compared to that of Jeff Buckley as regards the technique and, above all, the intensity of performance.
At this point some authentic "curtains" begin, which make the evening very special: Gary Lucas proves increasingly volcanic and talkative, introducing each subsequent song with a few bars and, above all, interesting stories and anecdotes about his human and professional relationship with Jeff … Asking other musicians to translate his words for the benefit of the public! A Lucas so focused on his equipment, that by retuning the acoustics he gets to blow a string, trying to ask someone for help from the audience, and getting it on time.
The mix between these moments of good-natured hilarity and the great music of Gary and Jeff is simply perfect, because the public has the opportunity to listen to Gary's interesting and amusing anecdotes - already the author of the book "Touched by Grace", dedicated to his human journey and artistic with the singer -, and then moved immediately afterwards, listening to the poignant interpretations that the close-knit quartet gave us in this magical evening.
The good The Niro arouses tenderness, which at times seems overwhelmed by the electrifying verve of a "absolutely sober" Gary Lucas, but who in any case manages to recover to give us pearls of rare wonder such as "She's Free" or "Mojo Pin". Ours are divided by a couple of songs towards the middle of the concert: on this occasion Gary has the opportunity to give us a dozen minutes "alone", in which he shows off his incredible technique in a one-man-jam in which he combines blues , jazz, flamenco and psychedelia. After this interlude, the band meets to offer us the poignant "Hymne à L'amour", a reinterpretation in English of a song by Edith Piaf by Jeff, and "Pleasant Street", a song by father Tim from the famous "Goodbye and Hello".
The stage at this point all for The Niro, which takes a moment to tell how beautiful it is but in every intense aspect to follow an artist like Gary Lucas, telling us how the previous evening, in Pordenone, Bobby Solo arrived on the surprise stage, with which they then improvised some Elvis songs: after having fun imagining Davide and Gary as a blues version of the cartoon "Rick & Morty", ours gives space to music, offering us from his repertoire two excellent songs such as "Promiseland" and "In My Memory", the latter played with Mattia Boschi on cello. The songs are greeted with enthusiasm by those present, who give deserved applause to Davide, while our hope is to be able to hear some of his new unpublished soon.
We come to a conclusion that sounds almost reductive to define "in a big way": at first the band makes all those present come with the poignant "Grace", then does not leave too much to be desired, immediately playing the encore with "In the Cantina" , in our opinion one of the best pieces born from this excellent collaboration.
Two completely different worlds that meet, but that through music have been able to understand each other and join forces to give the public some moments of pure feeling. This is in a nutshell what we found and heard by participating in the Milanese stage of the tour of The Niro and Gary Lucas: an unmissable opportunity to listen to Jeff Buckley's songs live and feel how his music is still vital, inspirational, or more simply pure emotion.
No One Must Find You Here
Story Without Words
She is Free
Gary Lucas acoustic solo
Hymne à L'amour
Pleasant Street (by Tim Buckley)
Promiseland (The Niro)
In My Memory (The Niro)
Encore - In the Cantina
Rolling Stone (Italy), December 2019Jeff Buckley's lost music is reborn with Gary Lucas and The Niro
"Jeff Buckley was the most gifted and talented young musician I've ever met." The words are from the American guitarist Gary Lucas, already known from the Magic Band of Captain Beefheart and co-author of Grace and Mojo Pin, two of Buckley's most famous classics, milestones from his first and only record, the extraordinary Grace of 1994, enhanced by the wonderful Hallelujah cover by Leonard Cohen. In October, The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook (Esordisco) was released, an album that for the first time brought together all the songs written by Lucas and Buckley, reinterpreted here by the good Davide Combusti aka The Niro, Roman singer-songwriter known for his familiarity with the English language.
In total 12 pieces revisited, if not reinvented, with the multi-instrumentalist Francesco Arpino in production. We will be able to hear them live starting December 19th, when Lucas, The Niro and Arpino will tour Italy for a dozen dates. In the lineup also are five titles so far never recorded in the studio, of which there existed only demos and live versions: No One Must Find You Here, Story Without Words, In The Cantina, Distortion and Bluebird Blues. It is on one of these that Lucas's attention is concentrated when we reach him on the phone at his home in New York: "The instrumental I had written for Story Without Words I had originally titled Voluptuous Cruelty, but I won't say why. I love that song, it's one of the ones that Jeff and I never recorded because of the pressure Sony were putting on him. Now I have done justice both to this song and to the many songs we wrote that had not yet had received the treatment they deserved".
During the interview the man from Syracuse will return several times to regret not having been able to record much of their co-written material with the young Buckley. "The music business got in the way, stories of contracts that I told in the autobiographical Touched By Grace. When we met, Jeff wanted to sing only, and to me that formula, with the undersigned responsible for all the guitar harmonies and riffs, and Jeff for the lyrics and the vocals, had seemed a winner. I was hoping we would have gone on like this, but it went differently».
Lucas's initial wish was to have Buckley on the microphone in his Gods and Monsters project. He managed to turn it into reality, but for only a moment: Buckley almost immediately left the band to pursue a solo career. "At the time I got a little upset, but I'm extremely proud of the work we did together. Having co-written Grace, a song that is still beloved all over the world, is something that I cannot not be proud of». It was the spring of 1991 when he met the then 24 year old Jeff: Gary was invited to play with him during a concert in memory of Jeff's father Tim Buckley, who died from a heroin overdose in '75. From that tribute concert their partnership began. "Grace was originally an instrumental I wrote titled Rise Up To Be, while Mojo Pin I titled And You Will," recalls Lucas. "I will never forget the moment when Jeff came over, we sat on the couch - among other things I still live in the same apartment, I'm here now! - and I started playing the music I had written for Grace with Jeff singing his words on top of it. Well, it was something fantastic." Shortly afterwards the two went into the studio recording the song with Jared Nickerson on bass and Tony Lewis on drums. "Towards the end Jeff began to whisper repeatedly "wait in the fire, wait in the fire...": I had goose bumps. What the hell is this music ?! Jeff sounded like a small gnome to me: a leprechaun, since he was of Irish descent. He was exceptional, and I knew I had the atomic bomb in my hands when I left the session with the tape: this music will blow up the world, I told myself. " He was not wrong, and in this sense The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook is a tribute to the American guitarist and a greeting to what Lucas calls "probably the most beautiful moment of my career".
Chosen for his timbre and wide vocal range, The Niro agreed to participate in the project although it was not without risks. "At the time of my debut, many people approached me mentioning Jeff Buckley," explains the 41-year-old. «Actually in the period in which I wrote my first songs I didn't know of him; I learned to appreciate him later,intrigued by those comparisons. But anyway, when Gary called me I had some doubts. In the end, however, I threw myself into it and I'm happy: the reviews recognize that I didn't try to imitate Jeff». The album also features drummer Puccio Panettieri, cellist Mattia Boschi and two bassists, Maurizio Mariani and Englishman Phil Spalding, the latter already known for playing alongside Mick Jagger and Elton John. "It turned out to be a record with more complex writing than the songs we knew from the Grace album, there's a lot of Gary in it," notes The Niro. "The idea at first was to do it with only guitar and vocals, and then the plans changed, but in any case we have made all the songs our own: they are different from the already known versions and the five new ones I can't even consider them as covers". For the Roman singer-songwriter the goal was not to mimic Buckley and it must be said that he succeeded. "Difficult songs like Cruel and Malign Fiesta brought me to an unexpected acidity of voice," he notes. "In general, I was very stimulated by the fact that every song draws on a different sound world, from blues to psychedelia". And he adds: «When you sing No One Must Find You Here it feels like being on a roller coaster: you start low and then rise up to the sky!».
In addition to the many influences that Buckley brought with him - from the jazz of Duke Ellington to the punk of Bad Brains, from grunge to Led Zeppelin up to the spirituality of Sufi songs -, The Niro emphasizes how the voice of Grace's co-writer «knew how to transform any song into something magical ». "Just think of the covers of I Know It's Over by The Smiths and Calling You, the musical theme of the film Bagdad Cafè," he says. Not only: "Another merit" - continues Combusti - "was to have cleared the male sensibility at the vocal level, leaving space, in interpretation, for a more feminine kind of sensitivity. In doing so he reached unparalleled emotional heights and inspired many singers after him».
From this point of view the texts are a non- secondary element: The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook ranges from Story Without Words, in which Buckley tells of a girlfriend who betrayed him with a woman ("there's so much that you don't know, life is in your hands, there's so much you can't see while you've made your plans ") to In The Cantina, an expression of the desire to hole up in a safe place with loved ones and leave the bad world outside the door. «He lived intensely the most different emotions and was not afraid to examine them; he was not at ease with the surrounding reality, but seemed to understand it thoroughly" comments The Niro. And Lucas - who uses a 1966 Stratocaster and a 1942 Gibson J45 on the album which he plays strung with electric guitar strings, creates an unusual, evocative sound - in essence agrees: «Jeff Buckley's songs which I co-wrote are a mixture of tragedy and romanticism which any person of any age can identify with. Over the years I have often reflected on what made Grace and Mojo Pin milestones, and I believe it is because the arpeggios and general harmonic structure alternate in minor and major keys, which gives rise to a non-trivial, non-sugary sweetness: a bittersweet weave of light and darkness.»
The last time Lucas saw Buckley was February 4, 1997, at a concert for the 10th anniversary of the Knitting Factory, a famous New York club. "In the house were Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Lenny Kaye, Tom Verlaine, and many journalists and record company folk. Jeff played solo, and in the middle of his set said, "If Gary Lucas isn't too angry with me, would he like to get on stage with me?" I was surprised and happy. We did Grace, there were ovations, and I realized that I really still loved this guy." Three months later, on May 29, Buckley drowned in the waters of the Wolf River, a tributary of the Mississippi which he had dived into for a swim and was sucked into a whirlpool by the wake of a passing boat: he was 30 years old.
LongPlay-recenzje (Poland), November 2019Review of The Niro featuring Gary Lucas - "The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook"
The only studio album of the prematurely deceased in 1997 at the age of only 30 years, American singer, guitarist and songwriter Jeff Buckley was today the legendary album "Grace" from 1994. Co-responsible for the album's success was Buckley's musical partner, guitarist and composer Gary Lucas, with whom the artist also collaborated in the band Gods and Monsters. Jeff and Gary wrote twelve songs together, five of which have never been published before.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the release of one of the most important rock albums of the 90s, which is the album "Grace", special re-editions have been prepared not only for this album, but also released after the tragic death of the artist "Sketches for My Sweathheart The Drunk" and "Mystery White Boy."
A unique undertaking, however, is the album "The Complete Jeff Buckley & Gary Lucas Songbook", containing all joint compositions of Buckley and Gary Lucas in new versions recorded by Lucas together with the band The Niro, led by the leader of the Italian indie rock scene Davide Combusti.
Gary Lucas discovered The Niro during his concert tour of Italy. The temperament and vocal abilities of the leading band Davide Combusti and the original sound of the band decided that it was these musicians that the artist invited to implement this extraordinary project. The recordings also include excellent bass player Phil Spalding, known for his collaboration with Mick Jagger, Elton John and Roger Daltrey. The strength of the music on "The Complete Jeff Buckley & Gary Lucas Songbook" is not to recreate their original sound, but to give the songs a whole new life. The bridge between the past and today is the characteristic guitar of Gary Lucas, present in this music years ago and today.
Davide Combusti's vocals are perfect for convention saturated with raw rock sound, but also with the expressive melody of the songs that fill the album. With a high voice, the artist sounds great both in dynamic, dynamic compositions of Buckley and Lucas, as well as in ballads and blues sung to the accompaniment of acoustic guitars.
"The Complete Jeff Buckley & Gary Lucas Songbook" is a bold project and also a work full of respect for the achievements of one of the greatest rock legends of the 90s. This is a great treat for Jeff Buckley lovers, and at the same time a unique tribute to the artist made by his friend and "comrade in arms" Gary Lucas.
Las Juguetes-Rabioso (Mexico), November 2019Interview with guitarist Gary Lucas
By Miriam Canales
His guitar accompanied not only the footsteps of the legendary Captain Beefheart, but those of the promising and ill-fated Jeff Buckley, whom he accompanied in large part of his brief career and to whom he dedicated his book "Touched by Grace: my time with Jeff Buckley." Gary's chords have been on the side of No Smoking Orchestra, John Cale, Lou Reed and many others. Born in Syracuse, New York, he founded his own band called Gods and Monsters and has a strong passion for Mexico, the cinema of Luis Buñuel, and the monsters. He has also musicalized old horror movies as a headdress for philanthropic causes. In his most recent visit to this country, this involvement is demonstrated by his culture.
Tell me about your academic background
I went to Yale, but many called it "jail". I studied English literature, Shakespeare, Dickens. My background is English and I have played guitar since I was nine years old. My dad was the one who motivated me to play a musical instrument. Studying music is a complex subject, there are music students whose parents pay a lot of money, especially in the United States, borrowing tuition, and then want it back. And then it's hard to try to get a job in the music industry ... I'm being realistic. I never did that, I am self-taught.
Well, here in Mexico we already had some president graduated from Yale.
And it was good?
I don't think...he was irrelevant, Ernesto Zedillo, I can't say he was very bright...
Mexico reminds me of "The Forgottens" (Los Olvidados)...
Did you watch the movie? Did you like it?
I was very disturbed by it, so if I "liked" it, I don't know, but Luis Buñuel is my favorite director, he was the best. This is the only place where he could have filmed a movie like this.
Regarding our Day of the Dead celebration, do you have a particular memory of Captain Beefheart and Jeff Buckley?
Just because they are dead? (Laughs). Captain Beefheart was the most creative and powerful person I have ever met, not only as an artist but as a human, for me he was like an extraterrestrial. There are thousands of anecdotes, he could be very funny, but at the same time a big headache, he was a mixture. He had his moments. I think many artists are like that, some of the brightest are also some of the craziest. I don't know about Jeff, he had his ways. I wrote a book about him after he died. He was a young, talented and (later I learned) bipolar musician and he could do anything with his voice and every instrument he played. I was lucky to work with them because these people, you do not find them in any generation, they are like diamonds.
In that case how do you manage your own emotions?
I put all my feelings and passions into the guitar, through my nerves through my heart; That is my second therapy. But sometimes I don't want to play, although I have been doing it since I was nine years old. I'm glad that my dad suggested that I touch her (the guitar) because I was clueless; He just had to motivate me.
I tried to do the same at age nine and I couldn't. I consider that it is not only a matter of talent but of discipline, patience, in my point of view.
Agreed. You have to be disciplined to have a technique, it's not just that you take the instrument up and that's it. Once I was at a Montreal festival, one of the programs was advertised as "Gary Lucas vs. Guitar Hero". They put me onstage to play a solo live against the recorded solo in the machine and I won (laughs).
As for so many changes in the world, what do you do not to lose your mind?
I try to enjoy my life every moment, I see many art films, I read many books...
Have you read Dylan Thomas?
Yes, (he recites a fragment of his poetry), he was surprising, and a big drinker. I am currently reading a science fiction author, Chinese, incredible, imaginative Cixin Liu: The Problem of the Three Bodies. He is a scientist, and I don't want to "spoil it for you," but he tries to chronicle an entire civilization's rise and fall over thousands of years in the future—these aliens far away become aware of us through using elements of the surviving society on their dying planet. You have to read it.
About your band Gods and Monsters, do you have a particular taste for monsters?
Yes, it was my passion as a boy. When I was a child I found a magazine called Famous Monsters and it was the bible for people like Tim Burton, and Stephen King, for example, who are now famous directors and authors. When it emerged in the early sixties, it was fresh and historic because it covered the entire history of monsters from the silent film era to the present. As a young man, finding that was something beautiful and fantastic. Then I saw many of these films and they filled my imagination in many ways; I have empathy for the monsters, they are very misunderstood, like Frankenstein, he was not all that bad really. He was rather a "Modern "Prometheus".
Frankenstein was not a bad person reborn but a modern Prometheus and that is very exciting.For me the monsters are not physical, we have to fight against them, against ourselves and other people, they are more emotional, or we cannot see them.
I agree with that. I think it was my mission and passion when I formed this band, based on Frankenstein and "a new world of Gods and Monsters." Personally, I enjoy old horror movies when I watch them on TV, like Roger Corman's films. After The Texas Chainsaw Massacre though, Halloween, Scream,and this ilk of overtly gory films which came later, are very repetitive and even cheesy to me. I like the "old school". Many things are already being forgotten, not only old horror films, even folks like Frank Zappa. This is the digital world and people who are digital natives will continue to move, perhaps in classrooms, but technology will throw us away. I hope it is not too late. I am the last of a dying generation, I still play and give concerts all over the world, although sometimes there is not as much recognition as I would like depending on promotion etc. I always love playing with old horror movies, they are always magical. When I play, there is a sense of magic unleashed. How could I ever find another job as satisfying?
OA Plus (Italy), October 2019Review of The Niro featuring Gary Lucas - "The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook"
On May 29, 1997, Jeff Buckley dived fully dressed into a Mississippi River canal before rehearsing his new album. He would never have left that river, extinguishing one of the most crystalline voices and talents in the history of Music.
Although he had only released one studio album, "Grace", Jeff Buckley worked hard and collaborated (and recorded) with many other artists. Among his most important collaborators is Gary Lucas, the guitarist with whom Buckley has written together two masterpieces such as "Grace" and "Mojo Pin".
From that collaboration, which lasted about a year, many other songs were born, some that have seen the light, others not. That's why Gary Lucas decided to make "The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook".
But there is a problem: how can the irreplaceable Jeff Buckley be replaced?
Lucas had seen The Niro play live, Italian singer-songwriter active for years and who took a lot from Jeff Buckley, in terms of voice and writing. Struck by the performance, he asked the Italian artist to be the voice of this project, which finally saw the last 5 unpublished songs written by the Buckley-Lucas duo. The beginning is of the magic ones: "No One Must Find You Here" is an epic journey into the worlds of the guitar, from the melismas that they know of India to the electric svisate, for nine unmissable minutes. The soul of Buckley is felt in the vibrant "Story Without Words" or in the slippery blues of "Bluebird Blues", as well as in the vocal splendor of "In the Cantina" or in the melody in flight of "Distortion".
Following the remakes of the songs written (and already published here and there) of the duo Buckley-Lucas, where obviously stand out "Mojo Pin" and "Grace", all revised and rearranged for the occasion, also not to have to fall into embarrassing comparisons.
Lucas's "magical guitarness" is present and brilliant throughout the album and, despite the very difficult task for The Niro to compensate for the great absence, the record manages to make us believe—for an instant—to be in a different world, where things did not end in tragedy.
No One Must Find You Here
Story Without Words
In the Cantina
She Is Free
Malign Fiesta (No Soul)
Song to No One
ALBUM: THE COMPLETE JEFF BUCKLEY AND GARY LUCAS SONGBOOK
ARTIST: THE NIRO, GARY LUCAS
LABEL: I DISCUSS
Indie-Zone (Italy), October 2019Review of The Niro featuring Gary Lucas - "The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook"
If Gary Lucas had simply decided to release a record that would collect the pieces written with Jeff Buckley, we would have all thought of a clever commercial operation. The great American guitarist, who boasts a collaboration with the artist who died prematurely in 1997, instead extracts from his inevitable wide-brimmed hat two incredible surprises: five unpublished pieces and the voice of Davide Combusti, aka The Niro, which for a odd coincidence he also wears a hat, in this case a bowler hat.
Among the new pieces, No One Must Find You Here stands out, with a precise and icy guitar like the blade of a knife that prepares the entry to The Niro's voice in a song that seems to have been sewn onto him. Story Without Words, another unprecedented, is a western ride in which the horse is pushed to the improbable. Here the voice, in its suggestive clearing, invents its rhythm. In the Cantina, Bluebird Blues and Distortion close the batch of unpublished works.
From Mojo Pin onwards, the disc retrieves the songs that we all have already printed in memory. The choice not to slavishly execute the original versions, as also happens in Grace, responds to the desire to give them a new life. I therefore advise you not to get lost in sterile comparisons. We take advantage of listening to wonderful pieces again, with new arrangements and a beautiful voice.
Magazzini Inesistenti (Italy), October 2019Review of The Niro featuring Gary Lucas - "The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook"
Too early Jeff Buckley's talent has left us. So suddenly. With his untimely death in circumstances that were not fully clarified in 1997, the disbelief and pain of his supporters, with his myth of a rebellious and cursed genius that grows out of proportion after he disappears into an object of worship, perhaps with only one real album (plus an unfinished posthumously released in 1998 and a collection of covers released in 2016): "Grace" (1994). A record that for its beauty and intensity has given it to the History of Music. In fact, it contained extraordinary interpretations of Jeff as Hallelujah's touching one, borrowed from Leonard Cohen's production ...and also other memorable pieces like Grace herself.
Perhaps not everyone knows that Grace and Mojo Pin, another piece from that incredible album, were written together with Gary Lucas, a talented guitarist who can boast world-class productions and collaborations. Those two songs were written to be part of an album by Lucas himself, then, for various reasons, they took another path, helping to launch and build the Jeff Buckley legend. Due to the young artist's untimely death, the two could no longer collaborate but before Jeff's worldwide ascent they had recorded other tracks that had never been released.
Now, after more than twenty years, Gary Lucas has felt ready to recover those pieces and present them all in a brand new album: "The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook" (I start with 2019). A disc of international scope, produced in Italy, which for a question of sensitivity and writing ability, sees the participation of our Davide Combusti, known by all as The Niro, chosen for his qualities by the same Lucas. The identification of the Roman singer-songwriter in the atmosphere of Buckley / Lucas is total. Thanks also to the work in the process of arrangement and production of Francesco Arpino and Pierre Ruiz, the voice and personality of Davide Combusti, in the part of the skilled ferryman, manage to bring back in full, the compositional complexity, the emotional intensity, the visionary power , the biting acidity, the sweet and heartbreaking melancholy, of a genius who has left us with bated breath for so many years and finally re-emerges.
Il Manifesto (Italy), October 2019Review of The Niro featuring Gary Lucas - "The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook"
Jeff Buckley has all the characteristics of the "seminal" artist: he had a short but intense career, he died young, his greatness was fully recognized only after his premature death and he influenced many in one way or another artists. Grace, his only studio album, is still today a point of reference for the inspiration and intensity of the performance, which show a crystalline talent that would have deserved a much longer career.
At the beginning of his career, after his debut in tribute to his father Tim, Buckley joined Gods and Monsters with guitarist Gary Lucas, who accompanied him on his first performance. This collaboration lasted only a few months, but they were productive months: Buckley and Lucas composed twelve tracks, and two of these became Mojo Pin and Grace, the first two tracks of Buckley's album, and where Lucas is credited as co-author.
OTHER five songs have somehow found their way to publication, while the last five have remained unpublished for over 25 years, until the release (October 4) of The complete Jeff Buckley & Gary Lucas songbook (Esordisco / Audioglobe), in whose voice we find the Roman Davide Combusti, aka The Niro, indie-rock singer-songwriter also known abroad and who shared the stage with international artists such as Amy Winehouse, Deep Purple and Badly Drawn Boy. It is an interesting album especially for the presence of these five unreleased tracks. These are songs with very different atmospheres, from the modern blues of Story Without Words and Bluebird Blues, in which Lucas's acoustic guitar dominates, to the great intensity of In the Cantina (perhaps the best episode on the record), to rock-grunge of Distortion.
THE VOICE of The Niro moves on tracks rather similar to Buckley's and is particularly suited to the style of the songs, and even the songs already published become heartfelt and respectful tributes, which do not deviate too much from the originals and preserve the atmospheres, although the vocal style of Combusti emerges. These twelve tracks and, in particular, the five unreleased tracks, tell even more about how even Jeff Buckley's career could have been more intense and varied if he had not joined the Wolf River on May 29, 1997, the day before starting his second album.
☆ J DUBBER MUSIC PROMOTION ☆, September 2019An Interview with: Gary Lucas (11.09.19)
Gary Lucas (Syracuse, New York USA)
Guitarist: Captain Beefheart / Gods and Monsters / Jeff Buckley
Hi Gary! Thanks for taking time out to talk with me.
The last time we met was at the Borderline in London which is now sadly closed. Many greats have played there including yourself!
That was a cool club, and I'm sorry to hear that. It's great to talk to you again!
You were born in New York, what sort of up bringing did you have and what did you get up to as a kid growing up in NY?
I was actually born in Syracuse NY which is upstate, about 5 hours away from Manhattan, and a lot different than NYC. It's very Republican, very conservative, and located in the snow-belt. We used to pray for snow because often it would get so thick and deep that they would close the schools. I had a fairly normal middle-class upbringing, nothing fancy—I have two older sisters and a younger brother and we were all smart academically, my parents put a great stock on learning. My parents liked music also and had a lot of Broadway show and film soundtrack albums around, and some classical music as well. I was kind of a loner from the family though and used to sequester myself in my room and read books voraciously from a very early age. When I discovered rock and pop music on the radio though at age 5 it was like a shock wave hit me right between the ears, and I stayed glued to the radio in the basement of our house before I could read and write even, tuned into the sounds of mid-50's AM pop radio, which included r&b tunes like "Little Bitty Pretty One" by Thurston Harris and instrumentals like Ferrante and Teicher's Theme from "Exodus", novelty records such as Dickie Goodman's "Berlin Top Ten"—a whole universe of sounds there, unlike today's narrowcast play-listed radio. I became an obsessive pop music fan and then a collector of singles, stuff like th Beach Boys "Shut Down" and Jimmy Dean's "PT 109", the first single I recall purchasing.
Is it true, you were encouraged by your father to try the guitar and what was the first guitar you owned?
Yes, when I was 9 my dad came to me out of the blue and said "What about playing a musical instrument—how about the guitar?" It was HIS idea (and a brilliant one at that come to think of it). This is in 1961, way before the Beatles hit, and my idols then guitar-wise were Duane Eddy and the Ventures. My father rented me a very cheap steel string guitar with the strings so high off the frets that it was nearly impossible for me to wrap my tender fingers around—it really hurt to fret notes on this thing. He had me take lessons from a guy who came to our house for about a month before I got bored and chucked it and want back to reading and playing football with my buddies. It wasn't till my folks came back from a trip to Spain a year later with a nylon string Spanish-style guitar for me to play, which was a lot kinder to my adolescent fingers, that I went back to the guitar, and really dug in and started making progress.
You were a fan of Captain Beefheart and then became close friends and eventually became his co-manager, how did this come about and what was your best memory of this time?
I first heard the name Captain Beefheart a/k/a Don Van Van Vliet when I was hanging out with my high school buddies up on Marshall Street at Syracuse University and was flagged by an SU student, a kid with the longest hair I had ever seen at the time, worn way down below his shoulders. He was carrying an acoustic guitar case with the name "Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band" hand-written on it in red magic marker. This must have been in early 1968. He hailed me as I was sporting an English import pressing of The Move's first album under my arm (I was a huge Anglophile in music at the time as was he, as it turned out). We went off and started talking music and I asked him who this Beefheart fellow was. "Oh, that's a band my brother just produced in LA". He had told me his name was Fred Perry and I put two and two together: "Wait a minute, is your brother the producer Richard Perry?" whom I knew from Richard producing Tiny Tim's first album. Indeed that was his brother. That's how I first heard of Beefheart, and gradually I started checking out Don's music on albums I investigated and got into it deeper and deeper. I met Don when I was up at Yale and at that point was the Music Director of WYBC, Yale's FM radio station. I had driven down to Manhattan with some buddies to check out Beefheart's first gig in NYC at a club called Ungano's in January 1971 and it had changed my life. I vowed to myself that very night: "If I ever do anything in music, I want to play with this guy!". I became his biggest proselytizer back at Yale. 6 months later the Program Director at YBC informed me Beefheart was coming to play at Yale and would I interview him. That's how we first met—over the phone. Then he came up to play a couple days later and we hit it off right away and then gradually we grew closer over many years, he always invited me backstage and eventually gave me his phone number. I always hung out with him when he played in NYC but I never told him I played guitar—I was pretty shy and didn't think I was good enough then, although I'd been secretly studying his music from the records. He then disappeared off the scene for a year or so, fired his band or they left him, and then came back with what the hardcore Beefheart fans refer to as the Tragic Band, which I avoided seeing live. We finally reconnected when he was playing for a short time with Frank Zappa and they came up to play in Syracuse, at a point where I was home preparing to go work in Taiwan (this is another story). I met Don after the show, he was super-happy to see me, and we went out to have ribs together in a backyard bbq joint in the black ghetto neighborhood of Syracuse. In the middle of our chow-down I told him I played the guitar, which astounded him, and asked to audition for his next band, as he told me he was planning to put one back together again. I went up to Boston that week to audition in his hotel room after Frank Zappa's show and while he was enthusiastic he was kind of vague about the next step, as I had a ticket to the Far East then plus I was based out of New York, not LA where he eventually put the next band together. It took a couple more years—I flew off and had adventures in Taipei for a couple years meanwhile, returned to the States and married my Chinese sweetheart and started working as a copywriter for CBS Records but eventually in 1980 it all came together and I got in his inner circle, first as co-manager with my then wife Ling and as a special guest guitarist and French horn player on the "Doc at the Radar Station" album on Virgin performing his guitar solo piece "Flavor Bud Living", which got all sorts of praise in the music papers. I toured with Don and the guys after the album came out playing shows in the UK and Europe and also select dates in the US. Two years later Ling and I had split but I soldiered on with Don as his full-time manager an also as a full-time member of his Magic Band—not easy, wearing two hats like that---and am featured on the last Beefheart album "Ice Cream for Crow" (and also the video of the same name). He gave me a second solo guitar piece to learn which is featured on that album, an extended guitar workout titled "Evening Bell", which garnered even more fantastic reviews and which I still play in concert, especially in my one-man multimedia show "An Evening with Gary Lucas: From Beefheart to Buckley and Beyond". My best memory of that time was hanging out with Don one on one, either in the Mojave Desert where he lived or when he stayed with me in NYC. He was the funniest, most magical, most amazing person I've ever known by a long shot, and I've known and worked with some great people. He was one-of-a kind, sui generis, and should be a heck of a lot better recognized in the world of arts and letters than he is today.
You have had an amazing back catolgue of collaborations with some great musicians from the likes of Chris Cornell, Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave, John Cale, Lou Reed and Dr John, Bryan Ferry, Iggy Pop and a ton more... Does one special time with someone you have worked with stick with you the most that you really enjoyed, and why?
Yes, hearing Jeff Buckley sing "Grace" in the studio when we went in and recorded the demo with my band Gods and Monsters (at the time myself, Jared Nickerson on bass, and Tony Lewis on drums) in August 1991. I was just overwhelmed by Jeff's incredible vocal performance—and then him coming into the booth to ask me sheepishly "Was I any good?" I remember leaving the studio that evening with a DAT tape rough mix of "Grace" and "Mojo Pin", which we co-wrote—and it was like carrying the atomic bomb in my pocket. And I remember thinking: "This music is gonna rock the world!" Which it did.
We both have either worked or been involved in both sides of the Tim and Jeff Buckley families. What amazing voices both father and son had. Do you have a favourite Tim and Jeff Buckley song, and can you tell us something about your time with Jeff?
I think "Buzzin' Fly" is my favorite—but there are so many great Tim songs it's hard to choose one! I think "Grace" is my favorite Jeff song, especially because of the memory of recording the demo and later the studio version with Jeff. Overall it was a wonderful experience working with Jeff—like any creative relationship it had its ups and down, but the ups made it all worthwhile. Jeff was the most musically gifted young person I've ever met or worked with. He was preternaturally sensitive and attuned to nuances and vibrations. I trusted him completely on the creative side of things, I never had to fight with him about that stuff. I gave him very complex finished instrumentals and he always came back with the absolutely right and perfect lyrics and vocal melodies that fit our songs like a glove.
In 2013 you also release your book: "Touched by Grace: My Time with Jeff Buckley", with also supporting a few shows on the back of this. How was the feedback from the book and I'm sure you get loads of people telling you their stories they had with Jeff also?
Yes the book was quite well-received by both fans and critics, garnering a 4 star review in MOJO. I tried to keep it as real as possible and to put down everything I could recall about our time working together, the good and the bad, and I think people enjoy reading it a lot. I told it from the inside and from the heart, up close and personal, and give Jeff enormous props in my book.
You travel around the world playing some great venues and places, what's your favourite venue and place to visit?
Hard to say. They are all great in their own way. Most recently it's been Italy as I just played a fantastic gig before 1000 people on a big outdoor stage in a park in Rome. But ,"My head is my only house unless it rains", as Don Van Vliet used to say.
You have had some great memories and good times with Gods and Monsters, Captain Beefheart, Jeff Buckley and all your solo projects, do you have any new material or collaborations coming up or someone that you would really like to work with?
I have a great new album entitled "The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook" coming out on the Italian label Esordisco Oct. 4th. It's all the songs I co-wrote with Jeff in new studio versions performed by Italian vocalist Davide Combusti a/k/a The Niro and produced by Italian whiz kid Francesco Arpino. Five of these collaborations of mine with Jeff have never before been officially released on record. Then end of January I have a double CD retrospective album coming out on Knitting Factory Records entitled "The Essential Gary Lucas", which is kind of a Best Of album covering my nearly 40 years in the music biz going back to the Beefheart days. It mainly draws on material from the 30 plus albums I've released since 1990, with one CD devoted to Gods and Monsters tracks and the second disc devoted to Solo, Rarities and Collaborations. I'm planning to record a second Pearly Clouds album with Hungarian traditional folk star Eniko Szabo and saxophonist Toni Deszo in the spring, and have been writing with Joseph Arthur at the moment.
Do you have any other hobbies other that being a wizard on the guitar?
I still love to read and to go and see art-films (in real cinemas preferably).
Have you been happy with the way your musical path has taken, and if you had any advice for new guitarists out there what would you tell them?
Yes I am happy as the road is still unwinding before me. My advice for new guitarists is to try and find your own voice on the instrument. Forget any pre-conceived rules or notions of what and how you or other people think you should be playing. And try and not be discouraged if things don't immediately break your way, although it's hard not to be I know. Music is a calling —you should be doing it out of love, and not for the supposed money.
It's been great catching up with you Gary!
Yes thanks for your time Jay it was a pleasure speaking with you here.
JDMP wishes you all the best for the rest of 2019 and nothing but great things for 2020 #JDMPINT3
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Jeff Buckley & Gary Lucas - She is free
Jeff Buckley & Gary Lucas - Song to no one
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band 'Live in Paris'
Gary Lucas - "Evening Bell" from Captain Beefheart's 1982 "Ice Cream for Crow" album
Captain Beefheart - "Ice Cream for Crow" video with Gary Lucas
Gary Lucas - "Rise Up to Be" (the instrumental template for "Grace")
Post.it Roma (Italy), July 2019GARY LUCAS AND THE NIRO, AT VILLA ADA, AN EXTRAORDINARY HOMAGE TO THE MYTHIC JEFF BUCKLEY
by Domenico Paris
22 years after his death, this name continues to arouse in those who loved him a devotion that comes close to religious worship. Often, one wonders where he would have arrived, which streets he would have beaten if fate or whoever had not given him a hand. If unfortunately there is no answer to these questions, it is also true that from that inauspicious day to the present, a huge amount of "products" and rarity have been added to the record and online markets. And despite the unique voice of this unrepeatable interpreter makes even the most shabby of the b-side or a badly recorded bootleg worthy of being listened to, nevertheless it has reached a point where it is hard to understand, even considering the economic aspect alone, the meaning of certain operations.
It is not difficult, on the other hand, to understand the desire of Gary Lucas, who in a sense was the "mentor" of Jeff Buckley, to let the world know the entire production signed with him at the time of Gods and Monsters and surroundings. Especially because, instead of limiting himself to cleaning up badly recorded recordings 27-28 years ago, the great American guitarist wanted to give the project a completely different dimension, which would be lively and pulsating. It is for this reason that, making use of the voice of The Niro, he presented yesterday (21 July) on the stage of Villa Ada a world premiere of "The Complete Jeff Buckley & Gary Lucas Songbook", a collection of twelve songs, including five unpublished.
Accompanied by a band composed by Francesco Arpino on keyboards and guitar, Maurizio Marinelli on bass and Marco Rovinelli on drums, the new Italian-American couple immediately launched a novelty," No one must find you here", a track almost ten minutes long in which the numerous time changes and the strong intensity well represent the creative spirit that permeated the collaboration between Jeff Buckley and Lucas, who climbed into the chair in the next song "Story without words", also unpublished and characterized by its incomparable phrasing.
"Our" The Niro, for his part, in addition to excitedly stressed the satisfaction of having been involved in such an important initiative, proved to be at ease on the challenging records of the Anaheim Angel, as the following "Harem man" and "Distortion", in which the Roman is well juggled between moments of calm almost chanting and pulled with a high coefficient of commitment. The acme of the exhibition, for those who write, has been reached, however, in the middle section, with the new "She's free" and, above all, with the poignant "In the cantina", whose lyrical mood must have settled directly in the precords of the most convinced Buckleyans. In a set of this kind, naturally, the super-classic Grace could not be missing, re-proposed in a version without drums, followed by the beautiful "Song to none" and "Cruel". Immediately afterwards, Mr. Lucas left the stage for a break, during which The Niro took up the six strings to play two of the most beloved pieces of his 2008 eponymous debut, "Liar" and "Hollywood" (the whose good yield has unfortunately not been facilitated by the excessive and covering presence of the bass).
Simply stunning is the song that saw the Syracuse guitar hero "Dance of destiny" return to the stage, a short, majestic finger-picking treatise, during which it was pretty obvious why someone in the United States considered it the best instrumentalist on the square.
Finally, the last part of the live could only give space to two other cornerstones of Jeff Buckley's production, with Hallelujah embellished by the guest starring of the excellent Alessandra Parisi on vocals, and the long-awaited "Mojo Pin", also played without the drums in a very rarefied reworking that hit the mark.
Grand finale before the encore (during which "In the cantina" was performed again), the wild "Malign fiesta", during which Lucas and The Niro, supported by a strong rhythmic rhythm, thrilled themselves and the audience with an enthralling punk ride.
Summing up, it was a show that certainly did not disappoint the expectations and that, above all, if there was any need, reiterated that, almost a quarter of a century away from death and paraphrasing the title of one of his song, in Italy as in the rest of the world everybody here misses Jeff.
And how could it be otherwise?
Last report for the precious opening of the very young and Buckleyano Disparo, really very good.
End of a Century magazine (Italy), July 2019Review of concert with Italian vocalist The Niro on 7/21/19 at Villa Ada in Rome
Gary Lucas, historic collaborator Jeff Buckley, arrives in Rome with the support of Davide Combusti in art The Niro to revive the songs of the Californian singer-songwriter who died in 1997.
World premiere, the guitarist presents 5 unreleased tracks left in a drawer for a quarter of a century and which will be featured in "The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook" due out in the fall.
A dream come true, this is what emerges from the eyes of the master of the six strings from the stage of Villa Ada while he shows off one after another the famous songs - and the least - written with Jeff. It opens with unpublished works and then travels in the '90s to "In The Cantina", "Grace" and "Song To No One". The heavenly voice of The Niro means that all this is not another tribute band but a real musical embrace of a group of professionals to what it was.
Short interlude with "Liar" and "Bye To The Moon" from the solo career of The Niro and then leave the stage for Lucas and his instrumental version of "Dance of Destiny". The American musician, a lover of arancini and Chinottoas he himself says from the stage, is honored to bring to light pieces that otherwise would have been lost forever. Do not miss the beloved "Hallelujah" - with the presence of Alessandra Parisse - and "Mojo Pin".
Metropolitan Magazine, July 2019Review of concert with Italian vocalist The Niro on 7/21/19 at Villa Ada in Rome
Yesterday evening at the Roman park of Villa Ada a beautiful evening was performed in tribute to the musical art of one of the greatest American songwriters of the last 25 years.
On the stage, two exceptional "apostles". Gary Lucas on the one hand: New York guitarist, old friend of Jeff Buckley and his bandmate in the early 1990s with Gods & Monsters. And, above all, co-author of two tracks left in the history of rock: "Mojo Pin" and "Grace", which our hero will include in his first (and unfortunately only one) album released during the short life.
It must be said, because all too often the fans tend to have a short memory: the ideas related to the first instrumental / guitar sketch of those two tracks, by Lucas, were his, the six magic / enchanting strings that embellish them, giving a unique atmosphere. Whom Jeff immediately rendered full justice by writing lyrics and melodies. And singing with his angelic voice.
At the center of the stage, in black dress, tonight there is The Niro: name of the musical project linked to the Roman singer-songwriter Davide Combusti, interesting name of the indie-rock scene for over ten years. To his credit he has 4 albums, 3 of which are sung in English. Among his many influences, we can mention Buckley without fear of denial. His voice will have the daunting task of impersonating Jeff. Eventually the test will be brilliantly passed. Because from the beginning we didn't want to mimic the artist, to make it a stylistic mold without life. But with humility and bringing your own luggage, your identity, a story is told by moving and then adapting the point of view.
The project that saw the two artists collaborate, together for the first time, is titled "The Complete Jeff Buckley & Gary Lucas Songbook", an album that will be released in early October and contains for the first time all twelve songs that Lucas and Buckley wrote together in the early 1990s. Recorded in the studio in Italy with Italian musicians, in a re-arranged version with Lucas on guitars and The Niro on the lead vocal.
The unmissable opportunity derives from five unpublished titles, remained for a quarter of a century in the drawers - in an embryonic state - and finally engraved, a 'treatment' that they would have deserved from the beginning. "This year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the album 'Grace'. This is my gift to Jeff Buckley's fans," said Gary Lucas.
The American (after having given the top notch names of international rock the idea of singing those old unpublished works by Jeff and having only collected cash) met The Niro during an Italian tour. Being impressed, he proposed to the Roman singer-songwriter to give voice to this project. After accepting with enthusiasm, he enlists the artistic producer Francesco Arpino and proposes the executive production to Pierre Ruiz and his record label, Esordisco. Shortly before last Christmas, Gary Lucas arrives in Rome and the recordings begin.
These are the hot comments: for Lucas it is "a dream come true, especially with a singer as sensitive and talented as Davide Combusti and a far-sighted producer like Francesco Arpino. It was a total joy to work with them on this and they constantly surprised me with their fresh interpretation of these songs".
The Niro stressed "the honor of being able to take part in this extraordinary project. On this record I tried to find my expressive key, without wanting to 'clone' in any way a sacred monster like Jeff. When the record comes out, I am sure that whoever has the goodness to listen to it will be perfectly aware that it is in no way an exercise in fashion and that I am behind the microphone. Don't miss this preview at Villa Ada, it will be an incredible journey".
We are talking about a Roman / Italian preview because starting in the fall there will be a tour of American concerts, so as to present the project to American fans and to test emotions and sensations of the audience.
Villa Ada arrived last night, before the canonical tour and it was a first 'showcase' of the potential of the songs, many of them played very little live before or for the first time ever.
In addition to the already mentioned The Niro and Lucas (as 'guitar-hero' Seventies: Fender red Stratocaster, wide-brimmed hat on the head, dark jacket and dandy shirt), there is Francesco Arpino (keyboards, guitars), Maurizio Mariani (bass) and Marco Rovinelli (drums). The set starts at 22:25 and ends at midnight now past. Few introductory speeches, some anecdotes and above all lots, lots of emotion and desire to play.
The show is quality throughout.
The first piece proposed is a rock ride of over nine minutes: it's called " No one must find you here" and has just been made available on streaming platforms, waiting for the album in the fall.
It is also the first of the 5 'absolute unpublished' performed tonight. A powerful, epic song, with echoes of Led Zeppelin, King Crimson and Queen first mode. It is clear how much Lucas and Buckley looked at the 'classic rock' of the seventies and they wanted to revive it, telling it with a more modern look but without betraying its spirit.
"Story Without Words" breathes the same oxygen: a nervous and restless rock, crackling and with an aura of mystery. Embellished with guitar parts rich in psychedelic effects and a general gait almost 'prog' in certain aspects. It follows "Harem Man", a furious electric blues with a martial rhythm, with the voice of The Niro entering and leaving the song.
A pause (several others will follow, to tell the truth) to give Gary Lucas time to retune his guitar, then space for "Distortion" with its sudden tempo changes and the special hendrixian / pink floyd six-string effects on a solid rock hard base.
The first, authentic blow to the heart comes with "She is Free": unlike the other tracks (which bear witness to the wildest and most cited part of the collaboration between Lucas and Buckley) this one could easily have been part of the lineup in the album "Grace". It is a pop / rock delight with a fresh and catchy riff, from the radio appeal in the best sense of the word. A mean time full of lights and shadows, with sweet and bitter tones just like Jeff. The same impression for "In The Cantina". A ballad with an intimate and confidential atmosphere. Dominated by keyboards and by an angelic and fragile voice, counterpointed by the electric six string.
The second shot of the wing comes when it is time to revive "Grace": that perfect concatenation of chords, at the beginning, brings to mind ancient glories, very strong emotions that flow in unison with the voice of The Niro that tells us about Jeff in his own way, without overdoing it but in a suit that still fits him very elegantly. And the decision to play it without the drums (which was also present in the album) gives us the opportunity to dwell more on the guitar or other arrangement elements.
In the second part of the concert we especially enjoyed "Song to No One", performed in duo by Davide and Gary alone. Acoustics, always a little virtuous as Gary likes it, full of pathos and melody. And then the elegant and soft "Bluebird Blues", which almost anticipates the future speech of an Elliott Smith. Sung without the guitarist, in trio with bass, drums and acoustic guitar played by The Niro alone.
Who knows, maybe we would have done without the umpteenth version of "Hallelujah" (which has nothing to do with Gary Lucas, much less with the project of the disk / tribute that with The Niro is unraveling tonight), cover by Leonard Cohen engraved by Buckley along the lines of John Cale's interpretation.
On the stage the singer Alessandra Parisi, joined later by Davide for vocal harmonies. The task is carried out without jolts, and we realize that the choice is naturally due to the fact that it is by far the most well-known piece linked to the career of Jeff Buckley.
An amazing "Mojo Pin" (performed again without the drums, as had already happened before with "Grace"), masterfully interpreted with regards to the vocal interpretation, is for the writer the ultimate true touch of the author, the last acute exception of an evening full of emotions.
Rock&Folk (France), April 2019Review of live solo show in Paris March 9th 2019
In the shadows of his Stetson, Gary Lucas's mischievous gaze sparkles as he begins his set with a few picking pieces, interspersed, as he proceeds, with digressions on his career and the encounters that have marked him. Alone or flanked by guests, including Jean-Philippe Rykiel on the keyboard, ideal counterpoint of his guitar game while he performs, he channeled for two hours Chinese pop of the 1930s, the Allegro of the Czech composer Janacek, classics of the Rolling Stones and his hero Skip James, not to mention the detours expected by Captain Beefheart's rough blues and Jeff Buckley's celestial chants.
Review of live solo score for Erich Von Stroheim's "The Wedding March", premiered in Paris 3/1/19Commissioning a live score from Gary Lucas to accompany Erich von Stroheim's "The Wedding March" was something of a bet, as it marked a move from his beloved fantastic cinema into melodrama territory. But it being Stroheim, the melodrama had to be weird. Gary's guitar-playing is bold and precise—a perfect match for the director's temperament, and his inspirations beautifully echo the mood of this sardonic film streaked with irreconcilable sentiments. Viennese but with an attitude!
—Frederic Bonnaud, Directeur general de la Cinematheque francaise
Review of Sunset Jazz Club performance, Paris, 3/9/19It was cramped and crowded and hot and jam-packed at Sunset in Paris, just as one would imagine a popular Paris jazz venue would be on a Saturday night. But stereotypes and convention stop there. The evening was billed as "Gary Lucas & guests, a tribute to Jeff Buckley and Captain Beefheart." And here, the cliche "for lack of a better name" kicks in gloriously. The name of the show itself and the history behind it raises eyebrows in wonder. Indeed, Gary Lucas was a close collaborator, bandmate, and co-creator with two artists as iconic and diverse as Beefheart and Buckley. He is credited as "magical guitarness" on Buckley's opus, having mentored Jeff and written the music and those enchanting riffs for Grace & Mojo Pin. He was in Beefheart's Magic Band too. But to call the evening a tribute to "just" those two artists would only be small piece of the picture. In addition to Buckley and Beefheart, we heard blues-rock, country-blues, reinterpretations of a classic Czech composer and Shanghai pop songs of the 1930s. A bit of waltz and a nod to cinema happened somewhere in between, along with Gary's own Gods and Monsters songs.
The ensemble on the tiny stage varied from solo to seven with a total of 8 musicians (Gary included) gracing the stage at some point in the two exhilarating 45-minute sets that flew by. While the evening was primarily genre-defying and only tangentially jazzy, special guest Jean-Philippe Rykiel did add some serious jazz street cred to the mix on piano and an instrument that was part keyboard part wind instrument whose name I know not.
All this to say it was astonishing and complemented marvelously by Gary's good-humored and fascinating anecdotes. The New York Times once profiled him saying something like the music business didn't quite know what to do with him. It's unfortunate that such virtuosity combined with purposefully curated and inventive eclecticism is not better compensated commercially. We often become fond of artists who define themselves and never truly redefine themselves, producing new music that sits well within an easy-to-market "catalogue", evolving yet not transforming or taking risks. Gary clearly didn't choose that path, and tonight, every soul squished into that hot room was thrilled he opted to trailblaze instead.