Chris Lightcap's Big Mouth - Epicenter
(CleanFeed CF315CD. CD Review by Kim Macari)
Chris Lightcap’s Big Mouth is an exciting prospect. The band is comprised completely of musicians with strong individual voices, including the guitarist/bassist/leader himself, each with their own exceedingly impressive musical lives, and yet it sounds like a band. (If I shy away from that awful term s*p*r gr**p, it is because it doesn't do them justice; to me it describes a band which isn't greater than the sum of its parts…)
Almost 5 years on from the 2010 release, Deluxe, Epicenter has been much anticipated. The opening track, Nine South, is a characteristically propulsive tune from Lightcap. A theme which runs through the album is the interesting, close-knit writing for the two tenors which showcases the ability for these two saxophonists with huge musical personalities to blend together beautifully. The band are masters at creating interesting musical landscapes; White Horse lasting only 2 minutes and building layers of sound to form some uneasy, pensive atmosphere before launching into the Ornette-ish title track.
Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby form one of the most interesting and exciting double tenor front lines in jazz. Malaby’s huge, raw sound and Chris Cheek’s searching, beautiful lines ensure that this music can, and will, go in any direction. Craig Taborn switches between organ, piano and Wurlitzer with ease and along with Gerald Cleaver, is constantly contributing to the music, shaping and supporting. Regardless of whether it’s an open, loose tune like Arthur Avenue or the frenetic and grungy Down East, this rhythm section brings an energy which never falters. Cleaver represents that dream of a drummer which seems to be borne out of being in NYC - musical, involved and present without ever feeling busy or loud.
Epicenter is a celebration of New York City; in the musicians, the music and the inspiration for the tunes (Light was awarded a Chamber Music America New Jazz Works grant to produce the compositions). That central theme means that it’s an album in the true sense of the word – it’s meant to be listened to from start to finish and it’s clear that care has been taken to decide on a track listing that is cohesive.
Brimming with life and with musical empathy in abundance, Big Mouth’s Epicenter is a triumph.