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.