Winter Jazzfest, New York City, Day 1: January 7, 2011
Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth
Deluxe (Clean Feed, 2010), bassist Chris Lightcap's latest CD with his band, Bigmouth, made its share of year-end top ten lists and, from the massive crowd at Kenny's Castways, also seems to have wowed its fair share of fans. Fronted by the twin tenor attack of Chris Cheek and Jeff Lederer, and backed by drummer Gerald Cleaver and pianist Craig Taborn, Lightcap created a sound indicated by the classic convertible displayed on Deluxe's cover: the sound of the open road, filled with dramatic flourishes, head-nodding musical rides, and sudden moments of wistfulness.
Lederer had big shoes to fill, subbing for Bigmouth's usual saxophonist, Tony Malaby. In the first minute or so of his solo on "Blues for Carlos," he quickly and effectively established himself, in a exemplary solo ranging from low, buzz saw attacks to penny whistle altissimo screams. He was the Dionysian counterpart to Cheek's superbly tasteful Apollonian style, as he melodically drifted through the heightened tension of "Silvertone"though it should be mentioned that he later got into some hard stuff. There was also a surprise visit from trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, who put himself right in the musical context of his reed-playing compatriots, flowing with the same expressionist logic and intensity. Taborn was a wizard in the context of this group; armed with the freedom and melodic integrity of Lightcap's music, the pianist filled up the sound with spacey coloring, jaunty Latin rhythms and manic free improvisation. The open road sound of this quintet was largely thanks to Cleaver's pushthe key ingredient being a tambourine which, when mounted to his kit, splashed and drove the ensemble and, when separated, shimmered over top.
While the "time, no-changes" free jazz style of some of Lightcap's earlier releasesfrom which the set closing "Celebratorial" was drawnhave more than enough merit, his writing for Deluxe is a superb achievement in composition for improvisers. Every song sounded like the end of a film, where wistful nostalgia was seated sidecar with deliberate panache. Much as Duke Ellington described his orchestra, Lightcap's band was a Cadillac, with the force of a Mack Truck.
Aaron Goldberg Trio
Internationally renowned for his sideman work, pianist Aaron Goldberg has put together a formidable trio. Flanked by bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland, Goldberg found himself at full capability as a leader for Zinc Bar's audience.
Goldberg's trio has found a brilliant way to relate to time that seems unattainable by mere mortals. They seemed able to speed up at will, jamming lengthy pockets of sound in spaces of time that shouldn't fit such outbursts, not to mention doing it all in perfect synchronicity. Goldberg's melodic and rhythmic development reverberated like a sound wave to his responsive rhythmic section on his "One's a Crowd." The pianist's melodic inventionswhich involved Coltrane-esque cycles in harmonywere matched in intensity by his fellow musicians. He also proved capable of a much more nuanced style, in a tune that was about 90% gospel and 10% jazz. Goldberg's crowning achievement of the night was his left-hand/right-hand independence, in one instance accompanying himself with a left-hand bass line that would give a bassist enough to work withand never gave way even oncewhile he stretched into extremely challenging solos with his right.
His side cats were also forces to be reckoned with. Penman had complete control over his very dark bass tone through his resonant, melodic style of soloing; Goldberg compositions like "Lambada de Serpente" giving the bassist more than a few functions: acting as bass line; counterpoint; and melody. Harland has already established himself as a powerhouse drummer. Here, his jazz sensibilities, which included a super hard swing and razor precise grooves, were just prerequisites; his true brilliance lying in his deliberateness, where every separate drum hit was attacked and organized as if they were notes on a piano.
Marcus Strickland Quartet