Monday, January 31, 2005

Fast 'n' Bulbous - Pork Chop Blue Around the Rind (Cuneiform, 2005)

Fast 'n' Bulbous is a jazzy group put together by guitarist (and Beefheart alum) Gary Lucas to play instrumental versions of Captain Beefheart's music arranged for a "little big band" of seven pieces. Although Lucas only played with the Captain on his final two records, the selections on this disc come from the the entirety of Beefheart's musical career, 1966 - 1984. After '84 he went back to his first love, visual art and has been off the music scene. His former sidemen are still active though, several reunited as The Magic Band for the superb tribute disc Back to the Front in 2003 and now this band will do it's share to keep Beefheart's musical legacy alive.

Beefheart's work always contained interesting music and structures so there's much material for the band to work with and improvise on. There's the New Orleans like feel to "When I See Mommy I Feel Like a Mummy" complete with backbeat and chanting. "When It Blows Its Stacks" is one of the more ominous pieces in the Beefheart canon and here it keeps that feel with a smeared trombone solo leading into a cacophonous collective improvisation. Two songs from the Beefheart epic Trout Mask Replica are represented, "When Big Joan Sets Up" and "Veterans Day Poppy" keep the quirkiness that made the original music so interesting while allowing the soloists to inject fresh ideas. The disc ends with a wonderful version of "Tropical Hot Dog Night," Beefheart's send-up of lounge music that anchored the Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) album. The fanfare horns and excellent guitar work take the disc out on a high note.

This was a very successful album and the Beefheart catalog is deep, so I hope there is a sequel in the works. There was a time when jazz musicians borrowed from pop music with abandon finding new songs to improvise on. This disc shows that there is still plenty of great material in the pop and rock world that is just waiting for the right group to come along.

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