Captain Beefheart aka Don van Vliet retired from the music business in the early 1980's, but he still casts a long shadow in several musical realms including rock 'n' roll and jazz. Fast 'n' Bulbous is a hard swinging septet that covers Beefheart's compositions from a progressive jazz perspective. Led by former Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas and Microscopic Septet saxophonist Phillip Johnston, the band also includes Jesse Krakow on bass, Richard Dworkin on drums, Rob Hneke on trumpet, Joe Fielder on trombone and Dave Sewelson on baritone saxophone. The opening and closing tracks are features for Lucas and his national steel guitar, bringing the blues Son House style, with Beefheart's "Sure 'Nuff 'n' Yes I Do" and "China Pig" sounding right at home with the Mississippi juke treatment. Robyn Hitchcock sits in to sing on "China Pig" giving his best impression of the great man's incredible singing range. The rest of the album consists of tight, swinging arrangements of the songs the best of which for me was the swaggering "Smithsonian Institute Blues" which has a storming backbeat and bed of guitar for the horns to riff and improvise over. "Dropout Boogie" is another excellent performance, with the band swinging like a crack territory band and breaking out for excellent solo spots. This was a very good disc and a fine example of jazz musicians using unusual and fresh pop material as inspiration for jazz arrangements and improvisations.
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