Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth: Epicenter

Dan McClenaghan By

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The group is packed with some of the top stars of modern jazz, but it's with the collective and cohesive ensemble sound that bassist/composer Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth stands out. Hard-driving, electric, edgy, with a chip sitting firmly on its collective shoulders, Epicenter, Lightcap's ode to New York City, commissioned by Chamber Music America New Jazz Works, sizzles with the brashness and agitated energy of the big city.

Central to the sound is keyboardist Craig Taborn's distinctive work on Wurlitzer electric piano, acoustic piano and organ. His plugged-in riff on the set's opener, "Nine South," shines a neon backdrop for two of today's' most original voices on tenor sax: Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek, who play a good deal of unison here, and take hot, concise solos inside the tight groove laid down by the leader Lightcap and drummer Gerald Cleaver.

"White Horse" has an ambient, layered white noise surge suggestive of lurking danger. "Epicenter," the tune, is restless, with a low key urgency roiling out of the rhythm section, giving way to a brief Ellingtonian reed harmony leading into an urgent sax solo, more unison, another solo, the energy gathering to a more frantic level, that low key unrest ratcheting up into a higher gear.

The most successful jazz albums—at a time when single song downloads seem to be king—are the ones that make a grander statement, that work a central theme, in a suite-like fashion, as Epicenter does. Drawing from the personality and the unique energy of the metropolis, "Down East" takes a trip into, perhaps, areas of squalor and lawlessness, with the saxophones roaring like late period John Coltrane melded with heavy metal guitar guys. "Still Well" quells the chaos, with a low key, slightly tilted groove and some beautiful sax.

Epicenter an egoless all-star set, rocks: funky and modernistic, it sounds like an inevitable incremental step forward for jazz.

Track Listing: Nine South; White Horse; Epicenter; Arthur Avenue; Down East; Stillwell; Stone by Stone; All Tomorrow's Parties.

Personnel: Chris Lightcap: bass, acoustic guitar, organ; Craig Taborn: Wurlitzer, electric piano, piano, organ; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone; Gerald Cleaver: drums, percussion.

Title: Epicenter | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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