Captain Beefheart's active period in music (1965-1982) was one of intense experimentation met with almost total commercial indifference. Since his abandonment of music to pursue a career exclusively in art, his 12 albums have gained enormously in stature. One reflection of this is the band Fast 'N' Bulbous. Their latest recording, Waxed OOP, is their second Beefheart tribute, following Pork Chop Blue Around The Rind (2005).
Fast 'N' Bulbous is a seven piece group led by saxist Phillip Johnston and former Magic Band guitarist Gary Lucas. Before forming Fast 'N' Bulbous, Johnston was best known for his work with Microscopic Septet, which have also contributed drummer Richard Dworkin and saxist Dave Sewelson to Fast 'N' Bulbous. Lucas' time with Beefheart's Magic Band came in the latter era. He was in the Magic Band for Doc At The Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream For Crow (1982).
Fast 'N" Bulbous' approach is somewhat similar to that of Cuneiform label mates The Ed Palermo Big Band and their recent Frank Zappa tribute, Eddy Loves Frank. Waxed OOP takes a jazz approach to the work of the good Captain, with plenty of searing guitar from Gary Lucas.
The opening track, "Sure 'Nuff Yes I Do," is an interesting choice, as it is the first song on the very first Captain Beefheart album, Safe As Milk (1967). It is a solo interpretation by Lucas, played on his historic National Steel guitar, and sounds as authentic a deep-blues piece as an old Tampa Red field recording.
After this superb introduction, the band gets busy with a fine version of "Trust Us," which contains a spot-on horn arrangement, and a fine electric solo from Lucas. The arrangements of these songs go in a number of directions; one of the more intriguing ones is "Dropout Boogie," which is played as something akin to a high-school marching band composition. It would be a pretty hip marching band, though, with the serious trumpet solo action of Rob Henke coming in midway through the track.
Kicking off with that hilarious Beatlemania-era Paul McCartney quote "To the toppermost of the poppermost," the "Click Clack/Ice Cream For Crow" medley is another highlight of the set. Gary Lucas' guitar just rips throughout these songs.
There are two cuts here from Beefheart's most famous work, Trout Mask Replica. The first one, "Well," features one of the trippiest arrangements on Waxed OOP. The other Trout Mask track was recorded live at the Knitting Factory on April 8, 2008. It features none other than Robyn Hitchcock sitting in on vocals for a version of the classic “China Pig.”
Waxed OOP is a great tribute to the music of one of the Twentieth Century's most iconoclastic performers. Fans of Captain Beefheart and modern-day jazz will not be disappointed.