Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Chris Lightcap - Superbigmouth (Pyroclastic Records, 2019)

Bassist Chris Lightcap is one of the most interesting and thoughtful musicians on the current scene, with his last record with his band Bigmouth being my album of the year for 2015. Now he's back with a larger group, Superbigmouth, loaded with talent, including Craig Taborn on keyboards, Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek on tenor saxophone, Jonathan Goldberger and Curtis Hasselbring on guitar and Gerald Cleaver and Dan Rieser on drums. “Through Birds, Through Fire” opens the albums with brisk momentum as the guitars keep and upbeat and positive motion along side nimble bass and drums. The sound of the music is fresh and invigorating, and the work between the instruments is intricate, developing a thick woven texture. Rippling keyboards shimmy across the surface of the music followed by the horns and the full band moves into a collective improvisation, with groove undercurrents. “Queenside” has a heavier and more urgent approach, with the guitars and horns really leaning in and the groove from the bass and drums sounding more insistent. The group creates a very vibrant and powerful sound, allowing Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone to break out and build a raw toned solo over thick electric bass and a heavy drum pulse, before handing off to guitarist Jonathan Goldberger who provides an explosive interlude blasting off into a scalding solo section, before returning to the fold as the the group pushes hard to the finish line. “Deep River” unfolds gradually over keyboards and persistent bass and drums. The guitars and horns play well together developing a theme and establishing an identity for the performance. Chris Cheek's saxophone breaks out of the pack back, supported by nicely feathered percussion, and develops a patient and narrative driven solo, gradually guiding and focusing the pace of the music like a master craftsman. The drummers are top notch, adding cymbal accents to an interesting keyboard interlude, powering the group as it comes back together, with everything running smoothly, keeping the tempo at a steady boil, and adding a drum solo/duo at about the three quarter mark of the performance, juggling multiple rhythms. “Quinine” has a slightly slower tempo, with a dreamy soundscape that gradually focuses with the horns working into and inviting theme, and then guitarist Curtis Hasselbring, steps out, testing the waters and then adding passionate flurries of notes over crisp drumming. The band plays together in a collective fashion in a very impressive way, allowing a variety of colors and rhythms to come to the forefront and then be subsumed as the music continuously replenishes itself with new ideas. This was a very well done album, the musicianship is out of sight, but there is no ego involved, everybody is playing in the service to the music and that is its greatest asset. The compositions are well written and continuously interesting, allowing for great opportunities for soloing but also for full band playing, as they make the most of the opportunities given to them. SuperBigmouth -

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