Tag Archives: Andrew D’Angelo

Wall Street Journal review by Martin Johnson

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 74)
“Deluxe,” the superb new recording by bassist Chris Lightcap and his group Bigmouth, a quintet that has played together since 2005, is emblematic of a few trends on the local jazz scene.

The album features several first-tier New York musicians— saxophonists Tony Malaby, Chris Cheek and Andrew D’Angelo, drummer Gerald Cleaver and keyboardist Craig Taborn—and is the first recording by Mr. Lightcap’s group in nearly eight years. It was done for Portugal’s Clean Feed label, which has picked up the slack as many American labels reduce their output of new jazz.

“It’s hard to get us together in one place,” said Mr. Lightcap recently at a café near his Windsor Terrace home. “We’re all so busy that we don’t get to play as much as we’d like.”

As domestic jazz recording has declined, so have the opportunities for the next wave of greats to play on the best-known stages in jazz. To get exposure, they have turned to smaller places instead. On Thursday, Bigmouth will perform at the Stone, an artist-run space in the East Village.

Mr. Lightcap, who is 39, has played with avant-garde and mainstream groups since arriving in New York in the early 1990s. His primary sideman gigs now are with violinist Regina Carter and her Reverse Thread group, which blends jazz and African music; and with such leading musicians as pianist James Carney, guitarist Ben Monder, drummer Matt Wilson and Circle Down—a group led by drummer Chad Taylor.

Ms. Carter first heard Mr. Lightcap at a rehearsal with saxophonist Dave Rogers 11 years ago. “The charts were rhythmically challenging,” she said, “but Chris’s playing was assertive and motivating.” She added that she was impressed by the sound he achieved without amplification.

It is Mr. Lightcap’s sound—big and elastic—that makes “Deluxe” so appealing. Most bassists provide the musical ground for their bandmates from behind, but Mr. Lightcap’s combo features his sound out front with no loss of unity. Messrs. Malaby and Cheek’s two tenor saxophones are out front, too, creating soaring harmonies and incisive, contrasting solos.

Mr. Lightcap said the band’s structure grew out of his experiences here in the late ’90s. “I played in a lot of trios—usually bass, drums and sax—without a chordal instrument because a lot of rooms didn’t have a good piano,” he said. That led him to start thinking about a group with no piano and more saxophones on the front line; his first two recordings as a leader were in a two-sax, bass and drum quartet.

On “Deluxe,” Mr. Lightcap has added a third saxophonist, Mr. D’Angelo, on two tracks. It’s the first time they’ve recorded with Mr. Taborn, who joined the group in 2005 on Wurlitzer electric piano and acoustic piano. “I love the sound of the Wurlitzer,” the bassist said. “It takes me back to some of the music I loved growing up, like Ray Charles in the early ’70s, Aretha Franklin’s ‘Live at the Fillmore,’ Donny Hathaway’s ‘Live,’ and Yes.”

A native of Latrobe, Pa., Mr. Lightcap studied piano and violin as a child, but didn’t become passionate about playing until he took up the bass as a teenager. He attended the Governor’s School of the Arts, a Pennsylvania program for aspiring musicians. “I was the only bassist, so I got to play everything,” he said.

He wasn’t completely sold on becoming a professional musician, but after graduating from Williams College he attended a workshop with the great drummer Ed Blackwell that convinced him to come to New York and give it a shot. Here he distinguished himself by playing on both sides of a divided jazz scene. “There were a lot of cliques back then,” he said. “But now everybody plays everything.”

Mr. Lightcap met Mr. Cleaver (whose own band, Uncle June, will follow Bigmouth at the Stone on Thursday), at a session with pianist Ben Waltzer in 1998. Mr. Cleaver said in a recent email that “Chris has always had a very deep, spiritual quality in his playing; everything he plays swings hard and is funky.”

For the new project, Mr. Lightcap said that he wanted to avoid the rustic sound of most jazz recordings. “As real as that sounds, it’s artificial,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like that in the studio.” Instead, “Deluxe” has an opaque sheen that makes the sound fuller and more expansive. “I really wanted the sound to reflect that this band is so much more than the sum of its parts.”

All Michael G. Nastos

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Bigmouth (CF 174)
Bigmouth — a project of bassist Chris Lightcap — apparently is inspired by stretched-out, two-toned, tail-finned, white-wall-tired cars of the mid-’50s, in reference to the cover art on Deluxe. The music is ultra-modern from a compositional standpoint, only hinting at neo-bop while pushing the creative improvised harmonic envelope. Lightcap’s expertise on the bass is second to none, as he pushes and prods his way through these original works with an absolutely stellar band of drummer Gerald Cleaver, electric keyboardist Craig Taborn, tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek, and on three tracks alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo. While some allusions to the vintage autos are reflected in the titles, Lightcap’s vision is of the future, a heady mix of heart and soul embedded in this refreshing new music. The human cry from the three saxophonists in tandem shows their individual strengths abandoned for the common good, especially during the meaty, weighty “Ting,” as an active Lightcap sets the tone in 6/8 time while the stabbing Fender Rhodes of Taborn provides alternate tangents. The music is centered but perfectly identified by shooting out many sparks and shafts of light. “Platform” and “The Clutch” have Cheek and Malaby in saddened or hunched-over moods, funky in odd meters, as if on a long junket to nowhere. There are even darker or bluesy images conjured — slow, deliberate, or swinging — but Lightcap’s slap bass as a prelude for the rockin’ “Fuzz” gives a clearer view of what might be representative of a road song, and a signature sound in relation to the hot rod or classic car. This is a terrific recording from an incredible band that everyone who enjoys these musicians — as individuals or bandleaders in their own right — should play frequently while rolling down the superhighway of life.

NPR Music Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2010 by Patrick Jarenwattananon

The jazz musician of 2010 has nearly 100 years of recorded jazz history to grapple with. This is both alarming and liberating: alarming because the task of coming to grips with your roots is bigger than ever, and liberating because there are so many exciting places to start doing so. 

My favorite jazz records of 2010 often explicitly interacted with history. Perhaps the musicians were recasting jazz gems from the ’50s with their own language (Bill Carrothers, Mike Reed) or using predecessors’ aesthetics and sonic signatures as points of departure (Geri Allen, Jason Moran).

But just as often, musicians felt liberated to embrace whatever they felt like from outside the standard jazz narrative, from an Argentine folk composer (Guillermo Klein) to The Band (Fight the Big Bull) to hip-hop (Maurice Brown). This natural eclecticism also seems somehow appropriate to our age: If all recorded music ever is fair game, then why can’t it be on the jazz musician’s playground, too?

Of course, some great records reflected music history in less direct ways — they just were. Chris Lightcap and Mary Halvorson don’t get to play with their own bands nearly as much as they support others, but maybe their records this year will help change that. And Steve Coleman has been pioneering entire musical systems with a band called Five Elements for nearly 30 years; the latest recorded incarnation is a force to be reckoned with.

Top 10 Jazz Albums Of 2010
1. Jason Moran, ‘Ten’ (Blue Note)
It’s been The Year Of Jason Moran, with appearances on several great records (Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green, Ralph Alessi, Charles Lloyd), widespread mainstream press (NPR not excepted), and that whole MacArthur “genius grant” thing. All well and good, but Ten tops this list because the pianist has made possibly his best album yet. Whether sampling Jimi Hendrix’s feedback, writing for ballets and art museums or channeling Thelonious Monk, Moran has a way of translating high-concept commissions and unexpected artistic choices into gutsy, gritty satisfaction. And when your band has been together 10 years, and sports Nasheet Waits and Tarus Mateen, your unusual language is spoken like a common vernacular, lived and breathed night after night. It’s a kind of magic, and it’s bottled here.
2. Guillermo Klein, ‘Domador De Huellas’ (Sunnyside)
In Argentina, Cuchi Leguizamón was a folk musician whose songs people know, but whose name people don’t. He lived in northwest Argentina, developing poetic, idiosyncratic takes on folk forms: chacareras, zambas, carnavalitos. Composer and pianist Guillermo Klein grew up in Buenos Aires and, like several of his bandmates, found his way back home after studying jazz in the U.S. Now, he’s made a tribute record with his Argentine band, arranging Leguizamón’s songs for something that looks like a jazz band. But Klein stretches them until they’re new again, introducing new beat patterns, or subtracting voices, or reharmonizing passages, and otherwise making them groove. Essentially, these are the sounds of one Argentine musical iconoclast covering another, in ways that will make listeners want to learn more about both.

3. Steve Coleman And Five Elements, ‘Harvesting Semblances And Affinities’ (Pi)
As a composer, alto saxophonist Steve Coleman is as inspired by the astrological calendar and 13th-century philosophers as next-level metric number-crunching. But with a 2006 edition of Five Elements, the name he’s used for many different bands over the years, he makes all that mad science sound intuitive. Harvesting Semblances and Affinities is filled with staggered-but-throbbing grooves, edgy blowing and Jen Shyu blanketing it all with airy, often wordless vocals. Coleman also features his arrangement of a choral piece by modern composer Per Nørgård, proving that all this alchemy can in fact produce moments of beauty. There’s something here for wandering mystics and awestruck listeners alike.

4. Bill Carrothers, ‘Joy Spring’ (Pirouet)
Before Bill Carrothers moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, mostly known for its snow density and population scarcity, he studied jazz piano and worked the New York circuit. With two versatile New York musicians in bassist Drew Gress and drummer Bill Stewart, he’s made a sly new album which interprets the repertoire of ’50s trumpeter Clifford Brown — in other words, some of the best source material on earth. Subtlety is the key: Hiding in plain sight within a fine straight-ahead session are loopy clusters, cheeky snares and relaxed swingers that turn into moody ballads. Slightly demented, but rooted in the jazz mainstream, it’s one of those records that gradually sneaks in tasteful tweaks until it dawns on you that it is, in itself, a thing apart.

5. Maurice Brown, ‘The Cycle Of Love’ (Brown Records)
Trumpeter Maurice Brown came up in jazz in Chicago; he found his way to New Orleans for a while, including through Hurricane Katrina, and he now lives in New York. Judging from his second album, The Cycle Of Love, he seems to have picked up various lessons along the way: earthy intelligence, urbane slickness, how to party. The global aesthetic of hip-hop is also present — Brown works with plenty of R&B and rap artists — and his band, especially the tenor saxophonist Derek Douget, has a certain bounce (and a few skittering rimshots) in its step. But there’s also a clear compositional savvy in the 10 tunes here; it attests to a jazz pedigree. The result is a jazz record that feels like it’s from musicians of the hip-hop generation — and compromises neither genre.

6. Mary Halvorson Quintet, ‘Saturn Sings’ (Firehouse 12)
The critical hype that preceded Mary Halvorson’s second album as a leader made her out as one of the most original guitarists today. Indeed, she can lay the strange squiggles on thick, and the rawk shredding on with force. But Saturn Sings succeeds largely because of her compositions, too. Halvorson has added trumpet and saxophone (Jonathan Finlayson, Jon Irabagon) to her core trio (John Hebert, Ches Smith) for many of the tracks here; her music feels grander, more fleshy. Sometimes, the songs bound and even swing, and sometimes they paint somber moods through much chromatic strain. But they make easy sense — not an easy feat in the world of free/out/whatever jazz. This recording highlights this band’s abilities to ramp up the tension, and also to sketch fetching release valves in tandem.  
7. Geri Allen, ‘Flying Toward The Sound’ (Motema)
For one of two remarkable albums she released this year, pianist Geri Allen recorded by herself. It seems like a simple decision, but it’s inspired: Flying Toward The Sound is an engrossing program of nine original compositions. Some of the works are inspired by her heroes Cecil Taylor, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock; others are titled “GOD’s Ancient Sky” or “Your Pure Self (Mother To Son)”; all deliver the inquisitive, weighty oomph their subjects and titles would suggest. It’s tremendously well-recorded: The pianos she plays have lots of flavor, and their sounds are captured pristinely. This was a year filled with standout solo piano records (Matthew Shipp, Vijay Iyer, Marco Benevento and others), but in any format, it’s uncommon to hear abstract improvisation so dark, so enveloping, so moving.

8. Fight The Big Bull feat. Steven Bernstein, ‘All Is Gladness In The Kingdom’ (Clean Feed)
Imagine the intersection of free jazz and Southern music at large; now, take that idea and flesh it out for an 8- to 11-piece band, bristling with plump orchestrations and noisy breakdowns. That approximates the music of Fight The Big Bull, whose sophomore disc also features buzz-saw slide trumpet and some arrangements from New York guru Steven Bernstein. Not all the solos on All Is Gladness In The Kingdom are of the same caliber, and not every transition comes off perfectly cleanly. But there are too many good ideas in play here, many of them from the brain of leader Matt White. When this unit is at its best — and it is frequently here — it rears back and bellows, and cuts quickly to the pleasure centers of your brain.

9. Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth, ‘Deluxe’ (Clean Feed)
Red and cream with silver accents, a vintage convertible extends across the gatefold cover of bassist Chris Lightcap’s CD Deluxe. It references his band, Bigmouth — after the oversized grilles of such vehicles, presumably — but also evokes a great mental image. Lightcap is a smart composer of driving music; his tunes breathe, with plenty of room for horn interplay, but they also chug-chug along. (Craig Taborn’s electric piano and Gerald Cleaver’s drums have a way of doing that.) And he summoned more New York heavy hitters for his front line: Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek on tenor saxes, plus Andrew D’Angelo on alto on three cuts. It’s a brawny unit, but also at ease — a muscle car with an unconcerned foot on the gas, a ribbon of Western highway unspooling before it.

10. Mike Reed’s People, Places And Things, ‘Stories And Negotiations’ (482)
In other hands, this would be a “blowing session”: Gather several top-notch soloists, line up some tunes, press record. But this is drummer Mike Reed’s People, Places and Things, a project expressly committed to Chicago jazz history. So the special guests here are three Chicago gentlemen of earlier generations — trumpeter Art Hoyle, trombonist Julian Priester and saxophonist Ira Sullivan. Live at Chicago’s Millennium Park, they join a tight-knit unit which takes late ’50s tunes (and Reed’s charts) and works them over with modern, casually audacious language. In all, eight musicians were on stage: The arrangements take advantage of their quantity, while the solos benefit from their quality. This disc is third in a trilogy of PP&T records; all were so taut, so unpretentiously joyous, that a fourth is already on the way.

Jazzreview review by Glenn Astarita

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 174)
Deluxe marks bassist Chris Lightcap’s third album as a leader.  He’s well-travelled and looms as a significant session bassist for a wide scope of progressive-jazz veterans, including drummer Matt Wilson and other luminaries.  The artist morphs the title of his 2003 release for the Fresh Sound, New Talent label into the band name, featuring a top-flight sax section, here on this craftily arranged production.

Craig Taborn instills a sense of antiquity into the session via his Wurlitzer piano work.  He generates a cunning edge to complement the saxophonists’ appeasing fusion of tranquility, warmth and boisterous improvisational segments.  Moreover, Lightcap and estimable drummer Gerald Cleaver lay down the firm grooves, while projecting fluidity during pumped-up backbeats and when supporting the high impact sax choruses.

The band generates blood, sweat, and tears on pieces formed by yearning lines, bluesy phrasings and hardcore progressive-jazz frameworks.  Among other positives, the rhythm section provides the underpinning for an explosive sax attack amid rolling and tumbling sequences.  On “The Clutch,” Lightcap and Cleaver dish out a samba-jazz pulse, accentuated by Taborn’s airy and sparse notes.  It’s a calm before the storm approach, topped off with the soloists streaming extended notes within a cyclical groove.  They segue into a piece titled “Two-Face,” where the saxophonists delve into a free-form extravaganza, spiced with rifling lines and intersecting mini-themes.

Lightcap successfully combines a new wine in old bottles tactic, highlighted by strong material and subliminally stated overtones.  His compositions combine rugged aspects with sinuous patterns and an in-the-pocket component that contrasts intermittent and somewhat understated nods to other genres.   It all coalesces rather efficiently in concert with a highly-entertaining form factor.

All About Jazz Italy review by Luca Canini

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 174)
Valutazione: 4 stelle
Un giorno o l’altro bisognerà avviare una discussione seria sul concetto di mainstream in epoca post-postmoderna. Esiste ai giorni nostri un jazz che va per la maggiore? Ha ancora senso fare riferimento a un vocabolario estetico largamente condiviso e immediatamente riconoscibile? La questione è meno peregrina di quel che si potrebbe credere. Il termine mainstream è forse uno dei più abusati e fraintesi nel gergo jazzistico, sia da chi vi si trincera in nome del purismo, sia da chi lo usa per etichettare i conservatori. Eppure c’è una terza via, esiste una musica che racconta il nostro tempo rielaborando quel vocabolario al quale si faceva riferimento qualche riga sopra, quella serie di codici che fanno del jazz il jazz. E i Bigmouth di Chris Lightcap ne sono una splendida dimostrazione.
Deluxe è infatti mainstream senza per questo cedere alle lusinghe delle convenzioni. Mainstream nel modo in cui viene rispettato il tradizionale rapporto tra sezione ritmica e line-up; mainstream per la perfetta riconoscibilità dei temi e degli assoli all’interno di ciascun brano; mainstream per la diligente connotazione ritmico-armonica delle composizioni uscite dalla penna di Lightcap, che si srotolano con estrema fluidità, senza strappi violenti o sospensioni. Insomma, le regole del gioco sono quelle di sempre, quelle che ogni ascoltatore impara fin dai primi approcci all’universo jazz.

Rispettarle non significa però abdicare al già sentito. La scrittura è fresca e moderna, intrisa di attualità. Non c’è nessuna nostalgia, nessun intento emulativo di qualsivoglia maestro, nessun rimpianto per l’epoca d’oro del jazz, nessuna ossessione per i paletti e i tabù. C’è la consapevolezza di essere parte di una storia, ma non la sciocca convinzione che il meglio sia alle spalle.

Quel che manca per arrivare alle quattro stelle ce lo mettono i fantastici cinque coinvolti nel progetto. In primis Craig Taborn, straordinariamente efficace a livello ritmico (si ascolti l’intro di “Platform”): felino al Wurlitzer, più romantico al pianoforte. Felicissima anche la scelta di mettere a confronto i sax tenore di Chris Cheek e Tony Malaby: novello Lester Young il primo, elegantissimo e sinuoso, erede di Coleman Hawkins il secondo, con quel tono robusto e virile. Se non vi basta aggiungete al conto delle meraviglie il drumming impeccabile e asciutto di Gerald Cleaver e il contralto acidulo di Andrew D’Angelo, ospite in tre delle otto tracce.

Il passato non è mai stato così presente.

Time Out Lisboa reviews by Jose Carlos Fernandes

Luxo em tempo de crise

Já aqui se deu conta de três discos essenciais de músicos portugueses incluídos nos recentes lançamentos da Clean Feed. Queiram por favor adicionar à lista de “bens de primeira necessidade” mais três items

Corro o risco de me repetir, mas no meio da cacofonia geral é necessário insistir: a lisboeta Clean Feed é hoje a mais importante editora de jazz do mundo. Pelos riscos que assume, pela amplitude estética e geográfica do catálogo, pela quantidade e qualidade média das edições.

Rudresh Mahanthappa e Steve Lehman são duas estrelas ascendentes do saxofone alto e dois dínamos criativos e a ideia de ter ambos na mesma banda parece boa demais para ser verdade. Mas é isso que acontece nos Dual Identity, a que se juntam Liberty Ellman (guitarra), Matt Brewer (contrabaixo) e Damion Reid (bateria). O quinteto esteve o ano passado na Culturgest, mas antes passou por Braga, em cujo festival de jazz foi registado este Dual Identity (*****). Os que se queixam de que “o jazz moderno já não swinga” deviam abrir as orelhas e os poros a esta rítmica convulsiva, complexa e poderosa, que não deixa de ser sensual apesar do rigor matemático e que tanto serpenteia como uma pitão (“Circus”) como se reinventa como drum’n’ bass esquizóide (“1010”). Sobre os ritmos intrincados, os dois saxes perseguem-se como dois besouros furiosos, rodando em torno um do outro, num circo aéreo que faz a Red Bull Air Race parecer um vôo charter carregado de turistas reformados.

O contrabaixista Chris Lightcap remodelou o seu grupo Bigmouth, com a substituição de Bill McHenry por Chris Cheek (sax) e a adição de Craig Taborn (teclados) e Andrew D’Angelo (sax, em três temas), mantendo-se os habituais Tony Malaby (sax) e Gerald Cleaver (bateria). O elenco estelar e o título do CD, DeLuxe (*****), sugerem despesismo e ostentação, mas não há aqui nada de supérfluo. Com uma sonoridade poderosa e cheia de autoridade, Lightcap comanda as operações ao longo de sete peças de sua autoria, de personalidade bem variada. Embora também haja lugar à introspecção (“Year of the Rooster”) domina a exuberância e a pulsão rítmica. E sempre que se juntam os três saxes tenor, o indicador de temperatura vai ao vermelho: até “Silvertone”, que começa de forma banal, vai aquecendo gradualmente e acaba com Malaby, Cheek e D’Angelo a soprar como se não houvesse amanhã.

De atmosferas bem diferentes trata Spiritual Lover (*****), do trio liderado pelo contrabaixista John Hébert, que conta com o camaleónico e omnipresente Gerald Cleaver (bateria) e o inventivo Benoît Delbecq (teclados). Entra-se num mundo de reverberações e refracções, como se o clássico trio com piano tivesse passado para o outro lado do espelho – se o Gato de Cheshire gosta de jazz, é este o seu combo favorito. “Spiritual Lover”, um tema de Andrew Hill, é atacado por Delbecq com sonoridade ácida de guitarra distorcida e converte-se num sonho febril e o standard “Here’s That Rainy Day” é desfigurado até ficar irreconhecível. Se “Cajun Christmas” e “Le Rêve Eveillé” são tão rarefeitos e delicados que uma rajada os poderia levar, “50808” é um ímpeto irresistível de bateria e contrabaixo, enquadrado por piano anguloso, e “Ando” é um fervilhar de ritmos ensimesmados e emaranhados. Delbecq, desdobrando-se por piano “normal” e preparado e diversos teclados, tece vasta gama de texturas e coloridos.

Três CDs bem diferentes entre si, que contrariam rumores e alarmes infundados sobre a periclitante saúde do jazz.

Downbeat review by Lloyd Sachs

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe

As impressive as bassist Chris Lightcap’s first two albums were in showing off his distinctive two-tenor quartet, they didn’t prepared us for the richness and emotional reach of Deluxe. Bigmouth, which takes its name from the second album, is now a quintet with the adition of Craig Taborn on Wurlitzer and piano; on three tracks, altoist Andrew D’Angelo joins tenorists Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek (who replaces Bill McHenry). Whether recalling early Return to Forever with the Spanish tinge and dancing electric keyboard of “Platform” or breaking out in free-jazz on “Two-Face”, the music is brimmingly alive.

Lightcap, who wrote all of the songs and produced the album, writes spare, regal melodies – some modal, some minimalist, all streaked with possibility. Lifted skyward by the unison saxes, the glorious, South African-styled “Ting” stops just short of bursting. “Silverstone” builds slowly and mournfully to an explosive conclusion, showing off the contrasts between Malaby’s dusky intensity, Cheek’s hard sheen and D’Angelo’s live-wire abandon.

As straightforward as the tunes can be, they gain complexity and off-center strenght from the painterly blurring of the saxes, subtle out-of-phase rhythms, staggered solos and opposing dynamics. Even as Taborn’s hard-edged Wurlitzer lines, Lightcap’s rangy, full-wooded attack and drummer Gerald Cleaver’s Elvin Jones-like orchestrations push the music relentless forward, the two- and three-note melodies keep it rooted in the moment, radiating a powerful sense of place. As fellow New York bassist Lindsey Horner did on his underrated Never No More (1991), Lightcap defines his role as much in ethereal terms as earthy. From Start to finish this music sings.

The Squid’s Ear review by Massimo Ricci

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 174)
Bassist Lightcap — a man with an impressive resume including collaborations with Marc Ribot, Joe Morris and Sheila Jordan — writes lushly articulated pieces that are also utterly understandable, with unmistakable references to the past organized according to an appreciable contemporariness leaving the players free to express themselves while remaining anchored within the compositional configuration. This incarnation of Bigmouth features a triplet of saxophonists (Chris Cheek, Tony Malaby, Andrew D’Angelo), Craig Taborn on Wurlitzer and regular piano, Gerald Cleaver on drums and the leader on his main instrument.

There’s a piece of meat for everyone in this lively disc. My own favorite is the introspective “Year Of The Rooster”, a delight for these ears with its sad, long chords moving over a tranquil-yet-problematic pulse. “Silvertone” is a slow song in three, characterized by a kind of semi-drunk vibe; the reeds work at the limits of intonation in a tune that might be used as a soundtrack for the parody of a strip-tease number. The subsequent “Ting” recalls, strangely enough, Soft Machine in some of the reiterative figurations performed by Taborn, but the harmonic progression is somehow reminiscent of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia”. “The Clutch” made me think — and I still can’t understand why — of Burt Bacharach. The scent, maybe: all those intertwining sax lines and that bass riff wandering on the pentagram, up and down, down and up. “Deluxe Version” is another darling, a mix of hospitable technical knots, quasi-memorizable themes and great soloing which ends too soon.

The overall sense is one of inspiration and divertissement. Nothing that could be classified as transcendental but the music is always enjoyable and vivid, gifted with a subtle humor that delivers it from constraint and idiomatic rigidity. It doesn’t lack contemplative openings either, and this reciprocation of moods appears as a very intelligent choice. An album that sounds spontaneous, offering various reasons of contentment through well-conceived and dexterously executed arrangements.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Chris Lightcap’s “Deluxe” and the Difference Between Fusion and Jazz-Rock

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – deluxe (CF 174)
Chris Lightcap and his 1956 (?) Oldsmobile can travel on into my neighborhood and play any time they like. He, his ensemble Bigmouth, and his new record Deluxe (Clean Feed 174) are welcome! Why? Because his acoustic bass, his compositions and arrangements, and his choice of players for me epitomise how jazz-rock is vitally alive. In the right hands, it speaks, it moves. And these are the right hands. Why jazz-rock? Why not call it fusion? Because to me there’s a difference. Without casting aspersions on either genre, I would say that jazz-rock (beginning from the time of Gary Burton’s first pioneering forays in this area), uses a rock beat and rock stylistic aspects but moulds them into a jazz context. That is to say, the style of soloing generally is more on the jazz side of the equation than the rock. Fusion often veers more in the direction of a complex funk than rock, though that isn’t always so. The written music is technically complex, not necessarily out of the jazz vocabulary, and draws upon other world musics. Solos are sometimes more rock driven, and sometimes world driven. So that’s the difference essentially for me. Either genre has plenty of life left in it. Chris Lightcap and his ensemble show that most clearly for the jazz-rock side. This is an impressive band. Cheek and Malaby do the reeds, with an apparently healthy Andrew D’Angelo adding his say for three of the eight numbers. The rhythm section of Taborn, Lightcap and Cleaver blow into our ears with confidence, a sense of purpose and a combination of subtlety and drive. Needless to say, Chris Lightcap can just be appreciated for his bass solo and ensemble work alone. But his musical vehicles are not shopworn either. They give direction and form. They give some very formidable players a springboard for their prowess and vitality. And there’s just a hint of retro here, with the electric piano especially a part of that. Sometimes music writing is like listing the ingredients of a soup. One hopes it will give the reader an idea of what has gone into the music. But as a recipe is not the soup itself, music writing is not the music. It’s all in the tasting. I recommend you try a bowl.

Village Voice reviews by Tom Hull

Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 174)
I used to be able to ID these cars: cover looks like a mid-1950s Oldsmobile (1956?), the sketch inside more like a 1959 Caddy, the ne plus ultra of tailfins. Lightcap’s a bassist, b. 1971, gets around, third album under his own name after two Fresh Sound New Talents. Runs a big horn line here, with tenor saxophonists Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby on all cuts, and alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo joining in on three of eight. Craig Taborn plays Wurlitzer, and Gerald Cleaver is the drums. Sounds like a freewheeling lineup, but they mostly hum along in sync. I used to have a monster Olds: a 1965, with a 425 cu. in. V-8, 4 bbl. carb, put out about 360 hp, ran real smooth keeping all that power bottled up under its big hood, kind of like this record. B+(*)

John Hébert Trio – Spiritual Lover (CF 175)
Bassist, from Louisiana, based in Jersey City, shows up on a lot of good records, now has two under his own name. Trio includes Gerald Cleaver on drums and Benoit Delbecq on piano, clarinet, and synth — mostly piano, but the switches muddy that somewhat. If you care to, you can focus on the bass and be rewarded for your efforts. Otherwise, Delbecq is a fine pianist — I recommend his 2005 album, Phonetics, but you get a taste of that here. B+(**)

Lawnmower – West (CF 178)
The label really seems to like group names, something I try to minimize in my filing: most seem like fronts for some principal, and even when group distribution is genuine so many group names become difficult to follow. I originally tried filing this under drummer Luther Gray: he produced and wrote the (very brief) liner notes. Don’t see any song credits. Of course, the person you hear is alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, who is always out front. Quartet is filled out with two guitarists, Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton, who don’t make much of a mark. Some bits of Americana worked into the mix, giving it a bit of folk-gospel roots, but recast as free jazz, of course. B+(**)

Keefe Jackson Quartet – Seeing You See (CF 176)
Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, from Fayetteville, Arkansas, moved to Chicago in 2001, third album since 2006. Quartet includes ex-Vandermark 5 trombonist Jeb Bishop, who also plays alongside Jackson in Lucky 7s, plus Jason Roebke on bass and Noritaka Tanaka on drums. Snakey free jazz, probably more interesting for Bishop’s runs and smears, although Jackson can pull off some interesting lines. B+(**)

Carlos Bica + Matéria-Prima (CF 180)
Bassist, from Portugal, based in Germany, has a half-dozen or more records since 1996, four with his trio Azul (Frank Möbius on guitar, Jim Black on drums). Not sure if Prima-Matéria is a distinct group — doesn’t show up on Bica’s website project list nor on trumpeter Matthias Schriefl’s MySpace page (Schreefpunk, European TV Brass Trio, Brazilian Motions, deujazz, 2 Generations of Trumpets, United Groove-O-Rama, Schmittmenge Meier, Mutantenstadt). Group also includes Mário Delgado on electric guitar, João Lobo on drums and percussion, and João Paulo on piano, keyboards, and accordion. Assembled from three concerts — the one patch of applause comes at a bit of surprise, even if well earned. Rather patchy, the main shift turning on Paulo’s accordion, which puts the band in a mood for tango or something folkloric; otherwise they have a tendency toward soundtrack, with three placenames in the titles. Still, Schriefl is a smoldering trumpet player, and this never settles into the ordinary. B+(***)