Tag Archives: Bigmouth

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.

Mark Stryker’s (Detroit Free Press)

1. Tom Harrell: Roman Nights (High Note)
2. Geri Allen: Flying Toward the Sound (Motema)
3. Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden: Jasmine (ECM)
4. Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman: Dual Identity (Clean Feed)
5. Kenny Dorham: The Flamboyan, Queens, NY, 1963 (Uptown)
6. Hal Galper: E Pluribus Unum (Origin)
7. Bruce Barth & Steve Wilson: Home (WASJS)
8. Jon Irabagon: Foxy (Hot Cup)
9. Cookers: Warriors (Jazz Legacy)
10. Chris Lightcap: Bigmouth Deluxe (Clean Feed)

Hank Shteamer’s (Time Out New York, The Wire) Best of 2010 List

1. Dan Weiss: Timshel (Sunnyside)
2. Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth: Deluxe (Clean Feed)
3. Harris Eisenstadt: Woodblock Prints (NoBusiness)
4. Jason Moran: Ten (Blue Note)
5. Mike Pride: Betweenwhile (AUM Fidelity)
6. Cookers: Warriors (Jazz Legacy)
7. Weasel Walter: Invasion (ugExplode)
8. The Bad Plus: Never Stop (E1)
9. Jon Irabagon: Foxy (Hot Cup)
10. Chicago Underground Duo: Boca Negra (Thrill Jockey)

Lloyd Sachs’ (JazzTimes, Downbeat) Best of 2010 List

1. Steve Coleman: Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi)
2. Henry Threadgill: This Brings Us To Volume II (Pi)
3. Randy Weston: The Storyteller (Motema)
4. Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth: Deluxe (Clean Feed)
5. Jason Adasiewicz: Sun Rooms (Delmark)
6. Ingrid Laubrock: Anti-House (Intakt)
7. Jason Moran: Ten (Blue Note)
8. Tomasz Stanko: Dark Eyes (ECM)
9. Ben Goldberg: Go Home (Bag)
10. Evan Christopher: The Remembering Song (Arbors)

Jim Macnie’s (Downbeat, Lament for a Straight Line) Best of 2010 List

1. Geri Allen: Flying Toward the Sound (Motema)
2. Nels Cline Singers: Initiate (Cryptogramophone)
3. Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth: Deluxe (Clean Feed)
4. Mary Halvorson: Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
5. Bill Carrothers: Joy Spring (Pirouet)
6. Jason Moran: Ten (Blue Note)
7. Tarbaby: The End of Fear (Posi-Tone)
8. Fred Hersch: Whirl (Palmetto)
9. Steve Cardenas: West of Middle (Sunnyside)
10. Amir ElSaffar & Hafez Modirzadeh: Radif Suite (Pi)

Martin Johnson’s (Wall Street Journal, theroot.com) Best of 2010 List

1. Mike Reed: Stories and Negotiations (482 Music)
2. Chris Lightcap: Bigmouth Deluxe (Clean Feed)
3. Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green: Apex (Pi)
4. Lucian Ban & John Hébert: Enescu Re-Imagined (Sunnyside)
5. Scott Amendola: Lift (Sazi)
6. John Escreet: Don’t Fight the Inevitable (Mythology)
7. Fight the Big Bull: All Is Gladness in the Kingdom (Clean Feed)
8. Mary Halvorson: Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
9. Howard Wiley: 12 Gates to the City (HNIC Music)