With the release of Bigmouth, Chris Lightcap's sophomore effort on the Fresh Sound label, he continues to carve a unique niche into the modern jazz world. His music adroitly surfs the waves between mainstream and avant-garde sensibilities, managing to do so without insulting either camp. The quartet is comprised of two strong tenor sax players up front alongside the able support of drummer Gerald Cleaver and Lightcap on upright bass.
If you enjoy the classic quartet music of Ornette Coleman, you can find plenty of parallels between what Lightcap is doing now and what Coleman was doing earlier. There is a harmolodic quality to Lightcap's approach to melody, harmony, and rhythm that is quite compelling, and his bass work reveals an affinity to the "inside/outside" stance of Charlie Haden or Charlie Mingus. Make no mistake though, Lightcap is doing his own thing. He is a very informed practitioner of the modern state of jazz, and he has developed a killer band to express his particular vision in regards to "the shape of jazz to come."
As a rhythm section, Lightcap and Cleaver are inseparable. Their sound is simultaneously elastic and tight, and they work hard to create a fertile hotbed for their cohorts. Their solos are right to the point and cogent. Cleaver is one of the most messed-up drummers on the scene today! The man break a song form into smithereens, yet never lose the One. He can swing, groove, and be acutely abstract throughout the course of a tune, and channel it all into an overall compositional aesthetic. Fans of Ed Blackwell take note and check the next generation.
Not to be outdone by the rhythm section, tenor players Tony Malaby and Bill McHenry play with verve and respect for what has come before. There are traces of Dewey Redman's tone and phrasing, Anthony Braxton's mid-'70s sense of melodic conception, and Jimmy Lyons muscle are evident at various times throughout the proceedings. This group plays with loads of gritty soul, hard bop, and guts.
This is inspired music from a group of relatively young players. Collectively, they cover a broad range of emotional language that they explore that range with simpatico, elan, and panache. If this record is any indication of the current state of health in the world of modern jazz, the art form is far from worn out. It clearly has many years of growth left in it.