Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth – Deluxe (CF 174)
Bassist Chris Lightcap released a CD called Bigmouth on Fresh Sound-New Talent in 2003, featuring a quartet with drummer Gerald Cleaver and the unusual frontline of two tenor saxophonists, Tony Malaby and Bill McHenry. Seven years later, Lightcap returns to the concept, with “Bigmouth” now the name of the band rather than the CD. In the intervening period, the band and the concept have evolved considerably. Cleaver and Malaby are still present, but the second tenor saxophonist is now Chris Cheek, while Craig Taborn is playing piano, both in its acoustic form and a Wurlitzer electric. Alto saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo appears on three of Lightcap’s eight compositions here.
As might be expected from the frontline, it’s a band of real power, but there are other dimensions as well. Lightcap works from a broad compositional palette, developing strong grooves with Cleaver that emphasize the R&B affinities of the two tenors, as well as a strong Latin feel. The scintillating “Ting” has a Mexican vibe and there are lovely liquid ballads as well. There’s a preference for consonant harmonies here that’s furthered by the majesty of the two tenors, Cheek usually the smoother sound of the two, Malaby using more vocal inflections. Their dovetailing lines, cascading over Lightcap’s bass ostinatos, are the essential component of the developing dialogue of “Clutch” or “Two-Face.”
Taborn’s Wurlitzer piano adds a special ambience, an unexpected period sound that seems to emphasize the Southwest. D’Angelo’s alto is an effective contrast to the weightier tenors, adding a clarion edge to the ballad “Silvertone” and spiraling, celebratory lines to “Ting.” Bigmouth is a special band, demarcating its own territory, filled with surprisingly open spaces.