Renowned Bassist/Composer Chris Lightcap Unites Two Acclaimed Groups For Latest Album
Acclaimed bassist and composer Chris Lightcap taps into the best of both worlds of acoustic jazz and propulsive electric arrangements with an all-star group featuring the sound sculptor's two critically acclaimed ensembles, Bigmouth and Superette. To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of his debut album as a bandleader Lay-Up (1999), Lightcap doubles up with the City's premier jazz visionaries for an unflinching amalgamation of his two singular groups on his latest studio recording, SuperBigmouth (Pyroclastic Records, October 4, 2019). The supergroup features the electrifying lineup of Lightcap alongside keyboardist Craig Taborn, tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek, guitarists Jonathan Goldberger and Curtis Hasselbring, and drummers Gerald Cleaver and Dan Rieser.
SuperBigmouth is a masterful follow-up to Bigmouth's 2015 release, Epicenter -- an album hailed as one of the best records of the year by The New York Times, NPR, Downbeat, Los Angeles Times, and many other outlets. It also follows Superette's self-titled 2018 debut album featuring special guest guitarist Nels Cline and organist John Medeski, which was dubbed the "best pure rock instrumental CD in years" by Goldmine Magazine and "superb" by All Music Guide.
Recognized as a lauded composer in his own right, Lightcap also performs and records with an array of the biggest names in jazz, including Regina Carter, Tomasz Stanko, Julian Lage, Joe Morris, Marc Ribot, and Matt Wilson. On SuperBigmouth, he teams up with co-producer David Breskin, whose track record includes production for John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, Mary Halvorson, and others.
At its core, SuperBigmouth explores the intrinsic versatility pulsing through the artist collective's DNA. Lightcap's impressionistic compositions are enriched by the band's juxtaposing improvisations, dynamic counterpoint, harmonic landscapes, and gravity-defying solos. One of the greatest pianists of his generation, Craig Taborn revisits classic Vox and Farfisa organs from the 1960s while contributing Hammond B3, Wurlitzer, and of course, his brilliant piano work on SuperBigmouth. Taborn's awe-inspiring range on a diversity of keyboards is on full display on SuperBigmouth, with a raucous organ solo kicking things off on the album opener, "Through Birds, Through Fire."
Saxophonists Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek's enduring history performing together for 15 years in Bigmouth as well as the bands of Charlie Haden and Paul Motian has created a telepathic connection, whether blending their written parts or improvising off of one another. The tenor duo serves as a key inspiration behind Lightcap's writing and the same goes for the guitarists of Superette, Jonathan Goldberger and Curtis Hasselbring. On SuperBigmouth, the four of them get a chance to expand on their shared history in all sorts of different combinations and contexts.
Gerald Cleaver and Dan Rieser never worked together before SuperBigmouth, yet have been friends for years and individually worked with Lightcap in countless rhythms sections and on dozens of recordings. Each are creative drummers, and for that reason, Lightcap decided to give them full leeway to create their own parts. On each track, they spontaneously conjure up glorious percussion sections and they perfectly complement one another.
"Through Birds, Through Fire" derives its evocative title from a painting of the same name by the Surrealist painter Yves Tanguy. Guitars and saxophones swirl in a kind of canonical call-and-response until Lightcap and the two drummers suddenly burst in from the shadows. The rest of the group gradually drops off one by one only to reenter, and eventually coalesce into a soaring new melody, until finally capitulating to Taborn's genius Hammond B3 solo. An indication of things to come, the spirit of SuperBigmouth is well-established when the guitars and saxes return with a phrase that serves as a springboard to colossal group improvisation.
Lightcap composed "Zero Point Five" with a nod to the expansive, reverb-laden pop productions of the 1960s. Alternating between counterpoint and large blocks of chords, Lightcap's melodies and overdriven bass act as both bookends and foils for a tandem solo by the saxophonists, leading into an improvised psychedelic guitar duo. On this section, Taborn transitions from his Vox organ to a piano motif that becomes the "last sound standing" as the rest of the group fades to black.
"Queen's Side" is a full tilt, take-no-prisoners rocker incorporating West-African-inspired polyrhythms and explosive solos by Malaby and Goldberger. Lightcap's bass lines morph from one shape to another and feed into declaratory statements by the guitars and saxophones bouncing off one another like repelling forces.
"False Equivalency," with its Sonny Sharrock -- meets -- Crazy Horse aesthetic, finds the saxophonists freely interpreting the piece's plaintive melody against the guitarists' big open chords. The four of them improvise rhapsodically, building the intensity up to a boiling point until the drums and bass explode into another vehicle for Taborn's organ vocalizing.
"Deep River" layers a wide-open groove beneath harmonized melodies played by the saxophones and guitars. Cheek and Taborn take turns soloing while maintaining a dialog with Lightcap's ever-evolving arrangement. After a recapitulation of the opening melody and a South-African choir-like coda, Cleaver and Rieser close things out with perfectly interlocking, hypnotic rhythms.
The serene "Nothing If Not" has a madrigal-like quality that sets the stage for an extended Lightcap bass solo. It develops into a heartfelt group improvisation. "Quinine," dedicated to the iconoclastic guitarist Robert Quine, features an off-center, syncopated groove, layered melodies and a lyrical, arcing guitar solo by Hasselbring.
The final cut, "Sanctuary City" begins with reverent chords played on organ by Taborn that are quickly supported by driving rock guitar chords with the tenors' melodicism setting an anthemic closure to SuperBigmouth. Avant-garde horn parts are grounded by the rhythm section's bulletproof pocket groove.
Lightcap and his stellar band of NYC's finest instrumentalists present SuperBigmouth at The Jazz Gallery in New York City on Thursday, October 3, 2019.
SuperBigmouth was developed with support from Chamber Music America's New Jazz Works Commissioning and Ensemble Development program, and funded through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Shifting Foundation.