featuring GARY LUCAS, arranged and conducted by PHILLIP JOHNSTON


Gary Lucas guitar
Jesse Krakow bass
Richard Dworkin drums
Phillip Johnston alto saxophone
Rob Henke trumpet
Joe Fiedler trombone
Dave Sewelson baritone saxophone

Songlist: The repertoire is drawn from the entire range of Beefheartiana, from Safe As Milk through Ice Cream For Crow, (and concentrating heavily on Troutmaskreplica.)

Description of Music: The idea is to use the compositions of Don Van Vliet as a vehicle for improvisation and arranging. The band consists of a steady crew of seasoned improvisers from both the worlds of avant-garde jazz and rock, who will render the music in both a tribute and a creative adventure in improvising. We use the horn section to take the place of the vocals, as well as transmute this guitar-based music into ensemble interplay, between horns and guitar and rhythm section.

First performances of the group were in Reggio Emilia, ITALY, Brugge, BELGIUM, and Bremen, GERMANY in October of 2001. On Feb 9th, 2002, the group made it’s New York debut, in a sold-out show at The Knitting Factory that included a reading by Mike Barnes from his new biography of Captain Beefheart, and a program of rare videos of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. (see reviews)

Subsequent gigs include Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space (sold-out), Joe’s Pub, the 2002 Saalfelden Jazz Festival, the Walker Art Center (sold-out) & Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio, and the 2004 Frankfurt Jazz Festival.

Phillip Johnston statement: In about 1970 I heard my first Captain Beefheart tune, Ella Guru; it was one of the things that changed my life and made me want to do music. From the first concert of Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band that I heard (Ungano's Ritz Theater, in Staten Island). I was hooked, and I followed them somewhat fanatically for years. To this day I listen to my same LP of Troutmaskreplica regularly, and it's still just as amazing. Although my main musical interests took me more often into the area of jazz, the music of Don Van Vliet remained a guiding principal throughout. I led a rock band, called the Public Servants in the early '80s, with Shelley Hirsch; and the tune "Pipeline" on my CD "The Needless Kiss" is my idea of a Captain Beefheart-influenced tune (and I say so in the liner notes). In much of the music I've written over the years, I see the guiding spirit of Don Van Vliet.

Now for the first time, after almost 30 years, having done re-arrangements and deconstructions of Raymond Scott, Billy Strayhorn, Thelonious Monk, Steve Lacy, Herbie Nichols, and others, with my groups The Microscopic Septet & Big Trouble, I've gotten together with my friend Gary Lucas, to do something with the music of Captain Beefheart.

Gary Lucas statement: Seeing Don Van Vliet's NYC debut at Ungano's in '71 with a bunch of my Yale buddies changed my life radically (and I'm still trying to recover!)--that night I vowed to myself that if I ever did anything in music it would be to play with this guy...and I got my wish in 1980 when I joined Captain Beefheart's merry Band as guest soloist (and manager by default)/ Over 4 years, 2 albums ("Doc at the Radar Station" and "Ice Cream for Crow", 1980 and 1982, Virgin Records), a world tour and video ("Ice Cream for Crow"), wrapping my fingers around 2 Van Vliet solo compositions ("Flavor Bud Living" and "Evening Bell") and a whole album as part of the Magic Band ("Ice Cream for Crow) was wonderful training for a career spent carving out my own niche in the post-modern music biz since Don chucked it all for painting in 1984. While my own music bares scant resemblance to his (I would never ever presume to emulate his singular approach) I feel that Van Vliet's sensibility and aesthetic definitely informs my guitar playing and overall worldview--it's like I went to Beefheart University.

Sidemen bios:

Rob Henke (trumpet) has played, toured, and recorded with Doctor Nerve, Marie McAuliffe's Ark Sextet, Illuminati, The Groove Collective, Whirligig, The Walter Thompson Orchestra, Diane Moser's Composer's Big Band, and The Ray Barretto Orchestra. He has recorded three CDs as a leader- The Bride, White Paws, and A Tale of Trevor Nor.

Joe Fiedler (trombone) has performed or recorded with Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Cecil Taylor, The Mingus Big Band, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Myra Melford, Roswell Rudd, The Lionel Hampton Orchestra, and The Maria Schneider Orchestra.  Currently, he is a member of Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Centric Orchestra, Andrew Hill's Sextet+11, saxophonist Chris Jonas’ innovative group, The Sun Spits Cherries, drummer Ed Ware's Tree, and big bands led by pianists Jason Lindner and Satoko Fujii, among others.  In addition he has appeared on more than 50 recordings, including his 1999 debut CD as a leader, "110 Bridge St.," for the CIMP label and his upcoming release for the Clean-Feed label, "Joe Fiedler Plays the Music of Albert Mangelsdorff."

Dave Sewelson (baritone saxophone) has played and/or recorded with Wayne Horvitz, Robin Holcomb, Saheb Sarbib, John Zorn, Roy Campbell, Mofungo, Elliot Sharp, Dee Pop, Frank Lowe, Pat Place, Billy Bang, Susie Ibarra, Bobby Radcliff, Dave Douglas, George Gilmore, Kyosuke Otsuka, and The Microscopic Septet. He is currently a member of William Parker's Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, and leads Sewelsonics and The Daves.

Jesse Krakow (bass) has worked with Kate Pierson (of The B-52's), Marilyn Crispell, Elliott Sharp, Ron Anderson, Patti Rothberg, Keaton Simons, and Scott Bruzenak. He is a member of Time of Orchids, PAK, Snuggle/Stencil, Angriest Pussycat, and is the leader of We Are The Musk Brigade. He has three CDs as a solo artist - Negative Fun, thatfunkyhippopjamthing, and Oceans In The Sun.

Richard Dworkin (drums) has performed and/or recorded with Deborah Harry, Heather Eatman, James White, Daniel Cartier, Earl King, Otis Rush, Bobby Radcliff, Samm Bennet & Chunk, Steve Almaas, Mick Taylor, Harry Shearer, Michael Callen, Joel Forrester, The Public Servants and The Microscopic Septet. He is presently touring/recording with Alex Chilton.

Contact info:

For European Booking:

Saudades Tourneen, Thomas Stoewsand.

For U.S. Booking:

Grand Wazoo Prods.


Phillip Johnston

Gary Lucas

return to front page