Jazz bassist and bandleader Chris Lightcap has been at it for a while, whether he’s playing on other people’s records, or leading his own, which he’s been doing since 2000. This time, however, his band is under a new pseudonym as Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth, and with this new record “Epicenter,” they’ve crafted a very impressive jazz album.
The first thing that becomes apparent about this album is its variety. Every song presents a new sound and new influences, from the bustling, syncopated, and catchy “Nine South,” the Ornette Coleman inspired sound of the title track, the grand acoustic guitar based “White Horse,” to the chaotic, free jazz cover of The Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” That’s not to say that this a wild genre hopping record, but it is definitely varied. You’re not just getting traditional swing based jazz. But the one thing that holds all of the influences together here is its mood and setting. The album was billed as a love-letter to New York City, and it definitely sounds and feels like that. “Epicenter” brings to mind the hustle and bustle of busy streets, subways, and dimly lit alleys. If there’s one thing you can say about this album, it’s immersive. From the second that Wurlitzer riff begins on “Nine South,” you’re engrossed.
The playing here is also impressive. The mood, cohesiveness, and arrangements are great, but it would be nothing if these guys didn’t have the chops, but they do. It’s a quintet featuring Lightcap on bass, Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek both on tenor, Craig Taborn on Wurlitzer and piano, and Gerald Cleaver on drums. They all have great chemistry together and play off of each other really well, like on the first track. The whole song is based on one single riff played on the Wurlitzer, and the rest of the players contrast that riff really well. This song, along the rest of the others features really tight playing and a sense of balance between the musicians. If there is one player that stands out, it is Gerald Cleaver, whose drumming is busy and complex, but never impeding on the other instruments.
“Epicenter” is just a very good jazz album. Tight playing, good soloists, engrossing mood, and really good arrangements are all here in spades, and consequently the album is extremely impressive.
Standout Tracks: “Nine South” “White Horse” “Arthur Avenue”
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