Gary Lucas   reviews  

All About Jazz Italia (Italy), November 2009

Review of "The Exploding Note Theory" - Gallo & The Roosters + Gary Lucas

The realization of these 11 tracks, of course, has followed extensive discussions between the musicians, mostly relating to the intentions of departure of each song. Discussions about the intentions and not on the scores because it is still improvisations too. The (good) music comes first and foremost on the ideas, that is, by the exquisite experience of the author (in this case also executor), by his ability to bring in notes his experiences, and - indeed - to leave even just imagining.

"Bela Lugosi" is obviously rock: four quarters, rumbling bass, guitar that cuts through the rhythm section. Brasses that move "grazed" by cutting the melody. The cd starts absolutely scoured.

The theory of the explosion of notes played without connection with each other according to the statement of Captain Beefheart, with whom Gary Lucas has also cooperated, beautifully realized in "Brunswick Road," heartbroken melody, folk music of the East Europe, or a dry, thin, haggard blues. To put it more complicated, it is appearances sound coming to us, this music keeps an anthropological/cultural secret.

There's all the will to overturn the tables in a song like "The Unitalian Composer," where the trombone introduces the rhythmic variations and noise, to create a real song where the musicians do their best to not accommodate each other. Each author of this and other songs of the album is put to the test directly in the creation, leaving out the studio all fear, without the weight of the existence of about a hundred years of jazz, sixty rock, etc.

The notes of the dobro from "Paris, Texas" by Ry Cooder introduce us to "Milo," but the music here is not acting as simple soundtrack, rather it works by itself without the vision of the images. Blues-pressed under the weight of gravity that does not yield.

In some songs, "Ed Wood," "Schwartzkopfstrasse" and the initial part of "Hushpukena", the intention is to make silence and rise slightly sounds. Each note of guitar (Gary Lucas is very good at "hiding" his instrument through the use of electronics) or touch plate or xylophone (played by Vincenzo Vasi) are necessary to intentionally create, produce, move the other sounds, such as if the notes were of pachinko balls. Every (possible) logic seems lost and - finally - also any intentionality. How to say, is not as important the biography or the physical existence of the musician and his instrument, but rather the existence of music, expressive of great and conflicting emotions.

That remains.

—Luigi Santosuosso & Claudio Casanova

Blow Up (Italy), October 2009

Review of "The Exploding Note Theory" - Gallo & The Roosters + Gary Lucas

8 out of 10, CD of the Month

Gallo & The Roosters come back, the wildest and free-range creature of the "poultry-house" of El Gallo Rojo.

For this second cd they have chosen a traveling companion that seems designed for this purpose, Gary Lucas who, from Captain Beefheart to Jeff Buckley, has always used the guitar as a weapon of mass creation. It's just Lucas to bring in the quartet his Beefheart theory of "the exploding note", such an attitude to play every note as though it had no connection with what precedes and what follows, leading to explosive effect.

And it's always Lucas who's happy to wallow in the muddy mix of the band, which opposes the pair bass clarinet/trombone (the excellent Achille Succi and Gerhard Gschloessl) to that bass/drums, of the leader Danilo Gallo and drummer Zeno de Rossi.

Funeral Band which stopped on the dusty courtyard of a suburban bar, drinking with Tom Waits, an organism that knows how to be playful and popular (the fair reading of Jamaica Farewell), but also sideways and obsessive, like a electric short-circuit in a motel (Hushpukena), gang of outlaws that affects the poems on the bark of burned trees (the beautiful tribute to goalkeeper Ivano Bordon signed by de Rossi), matter and melancholy (Laura), Gallo & The Roosters dance again this time with the more inspired spirits, and if it's not a coincidence that the song—beautiful—that closes the cd is dedicated to Ed Wood, share with the bizarre director a strange alienating (but carried out with undoubted talent) world view. The Exploding Note Theory looks like a small circus tent by stitching blues, a circus in which there are no tamers, but untamable animals, able to mutate their fur to make themselves elusive.

Het Parool (Netherlands), September 2009

Feature Pick for Paradiso show in Amsterdam on 9/25/09

MINIBIO (not authorised)
The American guitarist Gary Lucas plays solo Friday September 25th at the Paradiso

*BORN June 20th in Syracuse NY
*LEARNED to play the guitar at age 9
*STUDIED English literature at Yale University
*PLAYED in the O-Bay-Gone Band
*GREATEST HERO Captain Beefheart
*PLAYED in Beefheart's Magic Band
*IN 1988 made his solo debut in New York at the Knitting Factory
*ANOTHER BIG HER0 Jeff Buckley, whom he met in a concert in 1991 for Jeff's father singer/songwriter Tim Buckley
*MADE in 1994 the legendary Jeff Buckley (1966-1997) album Grace
*SOUND a mixture of country blues, avant rock & folk, klezmer, Wagner and Chinese popsongs
*NICKNAME "Guitarist of 1000 Ideas"
*PLAYS with his band Gods & Monsters psychedelic artrock
*SAID "It appears that Gary Lucas has grown extra fingers"
*INSEPARABLE from his hat
*ALWAYS on a world tour
*MOTTO "I am elusive, not categorizable in any one style"

Jazz Special (Denmark), August/September 2009

Review of "Rishte" (Gary Lucas and Najma Akhtar) and "WAXED OOP" (Fast 'N' Bulbous)

From another perspective is Fast 'N' Bulbous where Gary Lucas and Phillip Johnston have arranged Beefheart compositions for a band consisting of guitar, bass, drums and 4 winds. The band put out its first album "Pork Chop Blue Around the Rind" in 2005 and demonstrated their many potentials where they let the winds explore Beefheart's music with various colors and textures. And now they continue the same with "Waxed Oop" with 12 pieces and a bonus track of "China Pig" wiht guest vocalist Robyn Hitchcock.

The focus changes between Lucas' inspired guitar playing and the pleasing wind arrangments. they don't just sound good and underscore the melodic qualities in Beefheart's work, but add new voices and bring the music forward.

The last album under review doesn't have anything to do directly with Beefheart but it will serve as an example of the many different projects Gary Lucas has done after The Magic Band. Lucas is best as a composer and instrumentalist in a dialog with other musical temperaments as he has found in Najma Akhtar.

On their duo album Gary Lucas has written the music and Akhtar the text. The music is created among the 3 elements: Lucas' acoustic guitar, Akhtar's godly smooth voice, along with beats of the 3 tabla players. The results are a form of world pop, a melodic bengal blues--another place between Shakti and Joni Mitchell added to by the Akhtar vocals.

In some numbers the pendulum swings to the east, in others to the west. Some places the music is a duel, others a dialog, but the whole time it grows to more than the sum of the two. A unique symbiosis.

Captain Beefheart once wrote a song called "Space Age Couple". Who knows, was it Akhtar and Lucas?

Chitarre (Italy), August 2009

GARY LUCAS – Rise Up To Be (Rare Lumiere)

Gary Lucas is one of the "unknown heroes" of the guitar: sodalite of Jeff Buckley and musician for Captain Beefheart—to mention only two names—capable, with his solo performances and his varied collaborations, moving from folk and recovery of traditional music, to pop, rock and avant-garde. In this album there are instrumental versions of those historic pieces that later became "Grace", "Mojo Pin" and "Song to No One" for Buckley (here entitled "Rise Up To Be", "And You Will" and " Fool's Cap "). It is surprising to realize how, even without the voice of the late Jeff, they stand perfectly alone. Beautiful the first one, with the memorable arpeggio, the particular rhythm, the use of bordoni with the melodic line on cantino, to rise during the strumming, its alternation between arpeggios and phrases that follow each other without interruption. And what to say about the efficacy of flanger in some points, and the effects to paint scenes from synth. Lucas is a very creative and particular guitar player, as a performer and especially as a composer, who can also use the clean electric guitar as many would use the acoustic one (exploiting—for example—the potential of leveraging the harmonic). "Cantina" is a jewel, on the acoustic with fast phrasing and very assayed strumming, between oldtime and caribbean sun. And "Ghosts", a piece of another "fool" that began from the music fields and went to the circus to get to the space bebop and beyond, by Albert Ayler: it is a masterpiece in the arrangement, with the slide of Lucas.

—Sergio Staffieri

B!ritmos website, July 2009

"Rishte" - Gary Lucas and Najma Akhtar, CD of the Week

Thru Gary Nesbitt (ideologist of the album) Gary Lucas, who was guitarist of the legendary Captain Beefheart, met Najma Akhtar, one of the most important "European" Indian voices (she was born in British territory) in the promotion of her ancestors' music in Europe. The sad earthquake that isolated Pakistán in 2005 brought the first contacts between Nesbitt and Akhtar, who had the idea of putting together a project where blues and indian music got together. To achieve that goal, Nesbitt was confident about the right musician who should join the indian singer: Gary Lucas. The first meeting of both musicians originated four songs that built the base for the project, and the evidence that their idea had moved forward and turned reality. Eleven songs that were finished and recorded in the two following visits of Najma Akhtar to America appear like one of the surprises of the year. Though the fusion of rock, jazz, pop and electronics with indian music is not new (there are The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Asian Dub Foundation among others), not to mention the natural relationship with flamenco, or with African rhythms, as Trilok Gurtu demonstrated. But it is indeed innovative, the classic sound of blues and roots rock with the ragas and rhythmical indian beats. And that's what this fabulous "Rishte" sounds like. The melancholic slide guitars together with the spirituality of Najma Akhta'sr voice (which you could think have nothing to do with each other) melt incredibly, transforming and making the listener travel to other worlds and involving sound atmospheres so different, at the same time. Without a doubt, a great album.

—Bruno Freire León

Downtown Music Gallery NYC newsletter, February 2009

Gary Lucas & Gerald Zbinden - Down The Rabbit Hole (Border; EEC)

Featuring Gary Lucas and Gerald Zbinden on assorted electric, acoustic, steel and hollow-body guitars & electronics with Marcel Papaux on drums for three tracks. I always look forward to a visit from our longtime friend and local guitar hero Gary Lucas, since each of his releases is special in some unique way. For this one, Gary has collaborated with Swiss guitarist, Gerald Zbinden, who sounds like a perfect match in the way of unlimited guitar licks, tricks and creativity. Mr. Zbinden is a gifted guitarist who has worked with dozens of fine improvisers like Michel Doneda, Le Quan Ninh, Gunter Muller and Daunik Lazro.

Although I recognize Gary's playing and use of devices, both guitarists do have a similar palette of sounds to work from. "The Game of Life" features both pickers using some swirling echoplexed waves together. It sounds like a great space jam from an Ash Ra Temple or other likely Krautrock delight. The title track consists of somber, haunting, drifting sustained and spacy guitars. Each piece feels like a journey into the vast void of inner or outer space. Even when we are traveling through space, I dig the way the guitars keep changing their textures and adding a variety of odd and unique sounds. On three tracks, drummer Marcel Papaux, who has worked with Gerald in the past adds his percussive textures and pulse to the proceedings, helping to balance things and help navigate. On "Time to Go" it reminds me of a Hendrix-like jam with Marcel's propulsive drums grounding the electric guitars as they wail together and reach for the cosmos. Pretty f**king heavy! Gary pulls out his trusty steel guitar for "The Pulp Beneath the Bone" and adds a nice earthy quality while Gerald adds those soft swirls. Marcel again adds some righteous percussive spice to the epic-length "Sea Spawn and Sea Wrack", which slowly builds with waves of swirling colors. Their is a sublime dreamy quality when this piece first drifts in, the soft swirls leaving quaint traces in my mind's eye. Both of these fine guitarists are more like magicians here transforming their guitars into a magic carpet ride for us to go traveling to far away places within and without. A most impressive duo/trio that refuses to rest.

—Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

Muenstersche Zeitung (Germany), February 2009

Beefheart's Former Crewman—Guitarist Gary Lucas in the Black Box

Seldom has a guitarist seemed to fit so well into his own style. But Gary Lucas puts on no airs. He chats with a fan a few minutes before his entrance on Saturday at the C.U.B.A. Black Box, and he mingles with the many audience members. The New Yorker keeps a simple presence, and is completely satisfied with just an acoustic and an electric guitar—he doesn't need a band.

Lucas is the legendary guitarist with 70's star Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. And his collaborations with many other well known musicians, such as Jeff Buckley, have earned him the title "the thinking man's guitarist". Now he stands with a grey hat and a black leather jacker in the dark concert space and explains that he likes to write songs most when he's on tour: "New York is very loud. I prefer an empty hotel room."

No sooner has the last syllable left his mouth than he begins showing the results. And the fingers of his right hand are hunters, as he plucks the strings. And the grip of his left hand works to keep up with the right hand's speed. This very country-like way of playing Lucas combines with an arsenal of effects devices. An imposing collection of these little helpers lie before him on the floor, and on the table next to him there a dozen additional electronic boxes.

When Lucas multiplies the sound of a chord that he plays, sending it through the loud speakers, it seems as if a carefree sun-worshipper lying on the beach suddenly was hit by a tsunami. The Overture to "Tannhauser" by Wagner in this way is transformed into a manifesto of flower-power at a 60's happening.

—Heiko Ostendorf

RomaMusica website, July 2009

MALAGA CINEMA FESTIVAL 09 - Centro Cultural Provincial

June 26th 2009, 10.15 pm

by Marina Conti

Driven by the sacred fire of a great curiosity and intuition, the American guitarist Gary Lucas ( born in Syracuse, New York, to Jewish parents) is fond of typically bizarre projects—which he infuses with his own totally original and avant-garde guitar language. And he‘s also able to re-illuminate masterpieces from the past, more often forgotten by most, that he deftly pulls out of the dust to polish to a high gloss, restoring them once more to shine even more brilliantly than they were originally designed to.

He demonstrated all this once again with his original live music score composed for the silent movie of the '20s, "Der Golem", by Paul Wegener (based on a classic Jewish kabbalistic folk tale—(also the title of a novel written in 1915 by the writer and esoteric Gustav Meyrink), presented on 26 June 2009 by the Centro Cultural Provincial, at the Malaga Film Festival (Spain).

Seated and armed with a projector, electronic effects, film screen and two guitars, Gary Lucas left the audience open-mouthed playing 70 minutes without stop as if telling a very vivid non-stop yarn on his guitars, showing that the past should not always be considered old stuff but that often it contains a unique and immortal value that one should absolutely not forget. "Der Golem" is inspired by the Jewish legend of the Golem, a term that derives from the Hebrew word "golem" that means "embryo". Around its orbit various Jewish legends come to life in this tale of a rabbi of Prague who, through hidden magical Cabala language and practices, creates a monster of clay (the Golem) to be used as an obedient servant performing heavy labor, and also used as a defender of the Jewish people, in continuous flight. Wegener’s film is inspired by the ancient Jewish legend concerning Rabbi Loew and the Jewish community of Prague, under the reign of Rudolf II. Originally conceived as a silent film in black and white, the film seems to have been pulled out of an old drawer and immersed in a tub of changing colors, that Gary Lucas manages to blend in perfect sync with the sound. Very effective leitmotifs underline the characters and seem to recall those used by the German composer Richard Wagner, in the same short sequence of notes that reappear in different combinations, each time the character enter the scene. Maybe Lucas particularly appreciates Wagner work, since the homage that he gives to him with his review of the famous composition "Ride of the Valkyries", also contained in the Gary Lucas album " Street of Lost Brothers " (2000, Tzadik), "dedicated to all lost brothers and sisters, everywhere". In the dark and surreal atmosphere of this silent movie the music translates perfectly the "voices" and feelings of the characters: anger, sorrow, hope, anguish, disappointment and passion, to testify once again that universal language does not always needs words, music being in itself the true medium and sub-text to give expression to the soul, beyond any social, racial, and temporal borders.