A Farewell to the Good Captain

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch (not shown at left) played Friday night in Berkeley and closed out their show appropriately, paying tribute to Don Van Vliet — Captain Beefheart — one of Mezzacappa’s musical heroes.  He’d died that day at the young age of 69.

They did their cover of “Lick My Decals Off Baby,” which also appears on the Bait & Switch album, What Is Known. They prefaced it with … you know, I should have asked what it was. It was like a sustained wail of joy, with Aaron Bennett pushing the Coltrane buttons on his sax, and the whole band conjuring up that McCoy Tyner swirling-sea feel. (Note that Bait & Switch has no pianist). It was a reverant and celebratory gesture. Then they dived into the sharp-angled dancing rhythm of “Decals,” where John Finkbeiner played some of his most spastic, slashing guitar of the set.

One of their newer songs started the set,  opening with Vijay Anderson quietly hammering the drums with soft mallets, slowly joined by the small, spare phrases played by Mezzacappa (on bass) and Bennett. Eventually, the whole thing blossomed into a full free jam. The set also included a couple of the catchier songs from What Is Known — the upbeat “Ponzi” and the catchy (even though it’s in 11 time) “The Aquarist.”

Bait & Switch just came off of an east-coast tour, getting the rare chance to play almost every night for a solid week. They’d also gotten a spot at the Monterey Jazz Festival — see the video on Vimeo, from which I lifted a band photo — so it’s been a good, productive year.

They’d been preceded by guitarist Nathan Clevenger‘s band, which I’d missed. I did hear someone comment about Kind of Blue and a lots of horns, so — maybe that sums it up. I’m curious to hear that band’s new CD on Evander Music.

Previous mentions on this blog: CD review of What Is Known Live show at the Ivy Room.

Photo of Beefheart in 1980 is by Ebet Roberts, lifted from today’s New York Times obituary.