The Lounge Lizards

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The Lounge Lizards
OriginNew York City
GenresAvant-garde jazz, no wave
Years active1978–1998
LabelsEG, Europa, Antilles, Strange and Beautiful
Past members

The Lounge Lizards were an eclectic musical group founded by saxophonist John Lurie and his brother, pianist Evan Lurie, in 1978. Initially known for their ironic, tongue-in-cheek take on jazz, The Lounge Lizards eventually became a showcase for John Lurie's sophisticated compositions straddling jazz and many other genres. They were active until about 1998 with the Lurie brothers as the only constant members, though many leading New York City based musicians were members of the group.

The group's name was borrowed from American slang. A lounge lizard is typically depicted as a well-dressed man who frequents the establishments in which the rich gather with the intention of seducing a wealthy woman with his flattery and deceptive charm.[1]


At its founding, the band consisted of John Lurie and Evan Lurie, guitarist Arto Lindsay, bassist Steve Piccolo, and percussionist Anton Fier. Though partly inspired by jazz, John Lurie said he used guitarists in the band "to foil the music when it gets too jazzlike".[2] They released a self-titled album on EG Records in 1981 and produced by Teo Macero. The album included two Thelonious Monk covers, but as one critic noted, "the two aforementioned Monk covers seem a strange choice when you actually hear the band, which has more in common with sonic experimentalists like Ornette Coleman or Sun Ra."[3] John Lurie later said this version of the band broke up due in part to creative tensions exacerbated by conflicts with EG Records executives, and in part due to his growing belief "that what we were doing was maybe phony".[2]

A transitional version of the band for about a year in 1982-83 featured the Lurie brothers, with bassist Tony Garnier, trombonist Peter Zummo and drummer Dougie Bowne, augmented by other musicians depending on availability (e.g., bassist Fred Hopkins substituted for Garnier during a short tour).[2] This version of the Lounge Lizards did not record a studio album.

By the mid-1980s, a new line-up included bassist Erik Sanko, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, guitarist Marc Ribot, saxophonist Roy Nathanson, and percussionists Bowne and E.J. Rodriguez. This group recorded various live and studio albums and showcased John Lurie's increasingly sophisticated and multi-layered compositions.[4] John Lurie noted their music in this era was inspired by diverse sources such as "James Brown to Balinese music, from Varèse to Coltrane".[2]

The band's 1987 music video Big Heart was featured on the adult animation The Brothers Grunt.

In 1998, the band released Queen of All Ears on John Lurie's Strange and Beautiful Music label and had added Steven Bernstein, Michael Blake, Oren Bloedow, David Tronzo, Calvin Weston, and Billy Martin. "The Lizards' music isn't jazz," said Fred Bouchard of JazzTimes, "but it is intelligent and rhythmically and harmonically interesting (it ain't rock either, in other words) and, despite the ultra-hip trappings, it has an almost innocent directness that can transcend stylistic prejudice."[5]

The Lounge Lizards have been inactive since about 2000. John Lurie has been occupied with painting,[6] while Evan has worked on The Backyardigans, a children's show that highlights multiple musical genres.


John Lurie estimates about 80 musicians recorded or performed with the Lounge Lizards.[2] Performers included:


Studio albums[edit]

Title Release date
Lounge Lizards 1981
No Pain for Cakes 1987
Voice of Chunk 1988
Queen of All Ears 1998

Live albums[edit]

Title Release date
Live from the Drunken Boat 1983
Live 79-81 1985
Big Heart: Live in Tokyo 1986
Live in Berlin 1991 Vol. I 1991
Live in Berlin 1991 Vol. II 1992


  1. ^ Safire, William (8 March 1987). "On Language". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
  2. ^ a b c d e John Lurie (2021). The History of Bones, Random House
  3. ^ Carruthers, Sean. "Lounge Lizards". Retrieved 2013-01-24.
  4. ^ Huey, Steve. "Lounge Lizards". Retrieved 2013-01-24.
  5. ^ Bouchard, Fred. "The Lounge Lizards Queen of All Ears". JazzTimes. Retrieved 2013-01-24.
  6. ^ "John Lurie Art". Retrieved 2013-01-24.