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Chris Lightcap

Chris Lightcap is a bassist, bass guitarist, arranger, bandleader, composer, and improviser. As a sideman he has worked with dozens of artists including Regina Carter, Whit Dickey, Craig Taborn, Marc Ribot, Joe Morris, Rob Brown, and Tom Harrell, to name a scant few. He has also arranged recording dates for several artists. Since the late '90s he has appeared on more than six-dozen recordings. In addition to his work as a sideman, he has led several bands since 2000 and produced critically acclaimed albums of his original music, including 2003's widely celebrated Bigmouth with drummer Gerald Cleaver and saxophonists Tony Malaby and Bill McHenry. He later he expanded the group to a quintet (also called Bigmouth) with Taborn, Cleaver, and Malaby and Chris Cheek on tenor saxophones. Whether playing straight jazz changes, classical/jazz and folk hybrids, or his own curious brand of jazz-rock fusion, Lightcap's approach is direct and pulse-centric. His tone on the upright bass is warm, deep, woody, and rich; it's rife with fat pizzicato runs. His electric playing is both an engine and a hub driving his various band's performances in studio or on-stage. His 2010 album Deluxe with Bigmouth (that included selections with alto saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo) was celebrated by numerous media outlets in the United States and Europe as one of the best recordings of the year. In 2018, he issued Superette, by his all-electric ensemble of the same name featuring Jonathan Goldberger and Curtis Hasselbring on guitars and Dan Rieser on drums. (Keyboardist John Medeski and guitarist Nels Cline also assisted.) Lightcap is from Latrobe, Pennsylvania. As a youngster he played violin and piano before taking up electric bass at age 14. He began studying the upright bass as a senior in high school and furthered his studies at Williams College where he studied bass, composition, and improvisation with Milt Hinton, Cameron Brown, Alvin Lucier, and Bill Dixon. He also studied and performed with drummer Ed Blackwell shortly before the latter's death in 1992. After graduation and winning the school's prestigious Hutchinson arts grant, he relocated to New York City. From the late '90s onward, he has been active in the quartets of guitarist Joe Morris, Rob Brown, and Whit Dickey, as well as a member of Carter's studio and traveling bands, and with PLK Trio (with saxophonist Lisa Parrot and drummer Heinrich Köbberling) in addition to his own groups. His first two leader offerings were 2000's Lay-Up and 2003's Bigmouth -- both issued by Fresh Sounds New Talent. In 2001 he began working with Taborn on the keyboardist's Light Made Lighter, and in 2003 debuted with Carter's group on Paganini: After a Dream. In addition to his own recording and touring, Lightcap worked with Anthony Braxton, Lawrence "Butch" Morris, Cecil Taylor, James Carter, Tom Harrell, and Archie Shepp. Though Lightcap began arranging as early as 1997 for Brown's Scratching the Surface, he came into his own with his work on Matt Wilson's That’s Gonna Leave a Mark (2009), and Bigmouth's Deluxe album (on Clean Feed) a year later. He also arranged a pair of Carter dates in 2010's Reverse Thread and Southern Comfort in 2014, along with Mary Halvorson's Meltframe. In 2015, Bigmouth, trimmed themselves back to a quintet and issued the wildly adventurous Epicenter for Clean Feed. Not only was the record well-received critically, but the band's live shows were exceptionally well-reviewed, including appearances at European jazz festivals including Willisau, North Sea, Ljubljana, and Edinburgh. After returning to the States, Lightcap focused on his role as a sideman. He appeared on albums by Parrot, Wilson, Carter, Skye Steele, Taborn, and Shakers 'n' Bakers. He formed the Superette band in late 2017 with guitarists Goldberger and Hasselbring, and Rieser on drums. Rather than confine themselves to jazz, the quartet were a fusion outfit who created a hybrid sound that bled through harmolodic jazz, psychedelic rock, West African urban and folk styles, and even surf music. In September 2018, they issued their self-titled debut for Royal Potato Family Records, which also featured Cline and Medeski in the lineup and David Breskin as co-producer. The recording closed with a subtle cover of Neil Young's "Birds," with Lightcap guiding the melody. In 2019, Lightcap combined his Superette and Bigmouth projects for the ambitious studio album SuperBigmouth.
© Joslyn Layne /TiVo
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