My friend Gary Lucas, besides being one of our greatest living guitarists, is a well-lived man with a wide range of interests, and when he resided in Taipei in the mid-'70s with his soon-to-be wife, he became enraptured with Chinese pop of the 1930s and '40s, which was frequently a feature of the cinema of that era. He was particularly struck by the work of two singers, Bai Kwong and Chow Hsuan. He learned how to play their most haunting and best known songs, and proselytized for their work widely; one convert he made was Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, who Gary managed and performed with as part of the very last Magic Band. During their 1980 Vliet played Chow Hsuan tunes on the sound system prior to the band's set.
In 2001 Gary fulfilled a longtime ambition by recording The Edge Of Heaven, an album of material initially popularized by the two singers. Playing a multitude of guitars and using a simple backing band of bass and drums, Gary created arrangements that honored the original recordings while also adding marvelous musical ornamentation that illuminated the emotional acuity of the material, and brought it into a contemporary context without compromising any of the melancholy magic that captivated him in the first place. It's one of his finest records (and he's made quite a few very fine records). Tonight and Saturday night, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's relatively new Fisher Theater at 321 Ashland Place, with his longtime bandmates the great Ernie Brooks on bass and great Billy Ficca on drums, and featuring Shanghai-based vocalists Mo Hai Jing and Sally Kwok, Gary's presenting the music live. I'll be there Saturday and you ought to be there too. It's moving, dazzling stuff, filled with melodies that'll attach themselves to your souls.