The envelope-pushing former Captain Beefheart and Jeff Buckley collaborator chooses his finest performances on this kaleidoscopic 40-year retrospective.

Gary Lucas

The Essential Gary Lucas

To paraphrase Casey Kasem, Gary Lucas keeps his feet on the ground and reaches for the stars. Since emerging as part of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band in 1980, he’s honored the blues, folk, and world traditions as well as leapt into the stratosphere of jazz, art-rock, experimental, soundtrack, classical, and textural music. He’s recorded close to 50 albums as a leader or collaborator, and his instrumentals “Rise Up to Be” and “And You Will” were foundations for co-writing “Grace” and “Mojo Pin” with Jeff Buckley, when the latter was in Lucas’ band, Gods & Monsters.

Disc one features that longtime psychedelic rock outfit. The second spotlights rarities, solo performances, and songs with Beefheart, Nona Hendryx, Los Van Van, and others. The star is Lucas’ cosmic virtuosity, ripping raw down the rural backroads of acoustic 6-string or transforming Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro” into poetry that illuminates the entire emotional and sonic spectrum of electric guitar.

Must-hear tracks: All 36 of them

At L.A.’s Grammy Museum in 2011, Gary Lucas’ highly personal musical vision takes Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Bra Joe From Kilimanjaro” on an unpredictable sonic journey, ranging from delicate texturing to hard-edged shred. On another night, it might sound wildly different.

Diatonic sequences are powerful tools. Here’s how to use them wisely.



• Understand how to map out the neck in seven positions.
• Learn to combine legato and picking to create long phrases.
• Develop a smooth attack—even at high speeds.

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Knowing how to function in different keys is crucial to improvising in any context. One path to fretboard mastery is learning how to move through positions across the neck. Even something as simple as a three-note-per-string major scale can offer loads of options when it’s time to step up and rip. I’m going to outline seven technical sequences, each one focusing on a position of a diatonic major scale. This should provide a fun workout for the fingers and hopefully inspire a few licks of your own.
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Learn to rip like one of the all-time masters of modern electric blues.

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