Pas Faux

If the suit fits (Beuys will be Beuys).


The Lounge Lizards
Big Heart – Live in Tokyo
Island : 1986

John Lurie, alto sax; Roy Nathanson, tenor sax; Curtis Fowlkes, trombone; Marc Ribot, guitar; Evan Lurie, piano; Erik Sanko, bass; Dougie Bowne, drums; E. J. Rodriguez, percussion.

The Lounge Lizards are a little hard to classify. Initially saddled with the self-proclaimed “fake jazz” label — intended as Downtown misdirection, maybe laced with a streak of self-preservationism (or straight-up bet-hedging) — by the time this incarnation of the band was in full swing, there was nothing fake about it. Still, there were difficulties. The fact that the band’s output is listed in the Trouser Press record guide 4th edition and not the Penguin Jazz 5th speaks to the taxonomic trouble.

Of course, the shifting line-ups and varied output — never the same album twice; John Lurie’s soundtrack work and acting and visual art and reality programming; brother Evan’s kids’ show work; Ribot’s ever-shifting moods — doesn’t make it easy to pigeonhole the outfit. Nathanson and Fowlkes went on to form the nucleus of the Jazz Passengers. They’d perhaps learned the value of a good tag.

Call it whatever you want, though, just don’t call us late for dinner: this cooks. “Big Heart” starts almost fully inflated and continues pumping from there. The song rises to a full-throttle hysterical swing after about two mintues. It crests, and then — a scream, and Ribot starts applying the pressure again, with a wonderfully off-kilter guitar solo that somehow recapitulates all that has come before, while adding something noisy and new. The big beat supplied by the rhythm section of Bowne and Sanko is another stupendous part of the track, and their rock tendencies really come to the funk fore. The group did some kind of proto-video for this cut using a different recording. Of course, you can view it here; it’s plucked from the Fishing with John DVD.

Nathanson’s “Fat House” is a straightforward riff highlighted by another jerkily superb Ribot solo. As perhaps befits a song called “Fat House,” it doesn’t really travel that far. After Ribot’s turn the horns slowly regroup, creeping up on the main theme as though they might spook it if they come upon it too fast. Though this album is not currently available on CD, you can find all tracks at iTunes.

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There is a very good interview with J. Lurie in the most recent issue of Perfect Sound Forever. It contains this line: “Basically, I have an enormous amount of weird, migrating neurological problems. That can be mild or severe depending on the week, day, or hour.” This was news to us. It has apparently led to Lurie focusing almost entirely on his painting, culminating in a show last year at New York’s PS1. Prints, and discs, are for sale at Lurie’s Interweb home: Strange and Beautiful.

Category Lounge Lizards

23 Responses to Pas Faux

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve long thought that John Lurie (and Evan Lurie) and the Lounge Lizards didn’t get their proper respect. Their first noise-cover record of Monk tunes wasn’t so great, but Live in Tokyo has some wonderful moments, and you homed right in on one of them — Big Heart. The drums in this tune are enough to warrant some sort of lengthy meditation. It reminds me of 80s club take on Coltrane’s “India” but with a kind of bubbling, stuttering tom patter. Equally noteworthy are some of the tracks off John Lurie’s soundtrack to Down By Law, the records No Pain For Cakes, Voice of Chunk and Evan Lurie’s solo record Selling Water By the Side of the Rive, which also has Ribot on it.

    I lived in Tokyo in the mid-80s and the Lounge Lizards, along with Zorn, were regulars there. The wonderful three-story avant record store Wave would routinely show live footage of the Lounge Lizards on the store’s video screens. Wave was also a big booster of Tom Cora, the Residents and others.

  2. The Penguin eighth has no mention of them, either. No matter. Anything Ribot touches is gold to these ears.

    Thanks for these tunes and for reminding me that I need to watch Fishing with John again!

  3. I’m very fond of that first Editions EG Lounge Lizards album actually… opened up my ears quite a bit at an impressionable age… the albums that followed never quite did it for me — I guess I miss the Arto Lindsay noisy edge — but defintiely worth a revisit.

  4. well… i wouldn’t call it jazz (whatever that is). jazzy, sure, but those tunes don’t seem to go anywhere at all to my ears – i’ve tried playing the first one twice now, and both times i’ve had to stop it before the end because it was driving me mad. second one slightly less irritating, but still not for me i don’t think. i do like ribot too, and i’m not a jazz purist… but i’ve heard him play a lot more creatively than that. i’d say this is only jazz in the sense that acid jazz is jazz – i.e. not really. doesn’t there have to be some growth, some movement?

  5. Dunno, centrifuge. Maybe so. But stasis can be interesting, too. I do know that I’ve liked that “Big Heart” since I bought the cassette version way back when, and have likened it to jazz more than anything else.

  6. Big Heart was my intro to the Lizards. I still think its their best.

  7. “stasis can be interesting, too” – it can, it can. i guess this just doesn’t hit my g-spot ;-) we can’t all like the same stuff all the time!

  8. weird. i remember buying this on its release and being infatuated with it. but clearly it (or me) hasn’t aged well and i found it pretty hard work this time around…shame!

  9. What centrifuge said. I first heard Lurie on Raindogs, and had no desire to hear any more. I liked Down by Law, though. Better than The Day the Clown Cried, anyway.

  10. Just curious, godoggo, what it is you didn’t appreciate about Lurie on Rain Dogs? Checking it out, I don’t see Lurie credited in the liner notes, by the way. Love that recording, myself.


  11. Just not a good player. Absolutely nothing there, as far as I can hear.

    I googled rain dogs and sax and found his name, just to make sure I hadn’t remembered wrong. My copy’s on vinyl. I love Rain Dogs, just not the sax.

  12. Reminds me of Bowie, or that guy with Pink Floyd.

  13. yeah, re-checking the original liner notes for my vinyl copy as well, no mention of Lurie anywhere. Several internet sites have him listed as on the date. I guess I’ll listen to it again and see if it was just another “liner note” faux pas….


  14. i like them Luries. i think John’s underrated as a sax player – esp. evident live – but yeah, for sure his real gifts are as a crack bandleader and arranger. did some nice sound collages for the wooster grooup too. and his deadpan wit is comedy club sharp.

    as for these tracks, forget lurie, they seem to be all about my man marc ribot! i love his sound. jaunty angular shronk, playing those “wrong” notes that sound so right.

    speaking of rain dogs, i dig ribot’s contributes to that one. as well as his own “fake” group, Los Cubanos Plastizos, the arsenio rodriquez tribute act of sorts. hott stuff.

    thanks for these!

  15. i love ribot’s playing with tom waits too, and (sometimes) elsewhere. but as i say i found him a bit uninspiring on these tunes – almost like a watered-down version of adrian belew or even (since bowie got a mention) earl slick.

    guys, no post today? surely it takes more than a bit of “cognitive dissonance” to put you off? ;-)

  16. post coming… no worries on the cognitive dissonance front! just the daily grind of life intruding. it’ll be worth the wait though.

  17. What, centrifuge, you’re holding us to that Monday and Wednesday business? Egad. Speaking of upcoming posts, though, a note to regular readers (of comments, anyway): you’ll want to tune in on Monday next for…well…just get your blindfolds ready.

  18. never let it be said i’m not a creature of habit… download in progress! cheers

  19. YOU ARE FUNNY GODOGGO ! pink floyd indeed.
    YEAH i went to see em. and i left not soon after i arrived. i always felt i didn’t miss anything.
    reminds me of the frank wright -gary windo- michael marcus – and a young james carter 4tet i saw in 88[?]. Gary and Frank were especially weak [?!?] and michael and james tore it up like nobodies business. i mean tore it up! anyone remember Michael Marcus? he’s awesome and of course, unsung. used to play in Penn sta. all the time. how about Steve Marcus? he got cheesy later, but those mid to late 60s lps with Sonny Sharrock on at least one, wow! good stuff. real good.

  20. michael marcus co-leads cosmosamatics with sonny simmons (clearly a conspiracy of reedmen whose first and last names begin with the same initial… ayler is channelled onstage via spirit medium*) – they’re very much a going concern!

    * not really

  21. thanks centrifuge! sounds cool.

  22. Can we get this post re-activated and/or get some more Ribot up here in honor of his arrest at Tonic? He’s such a sick player and was taking a definite stand for music.

  23. » SUMMER RE-UP: Pas Faux destination: OUT