Conceptually and practically ambitious, SuperBigmouth is a composite of two projects of bassist/composer Chris Lightcap’s, Superette and Bigmouth. Rendered with an eight-piece band, literally twice the size of the quartet on last year’s splendid album titled after the former initiative, it is proportionately more dynamic and dramatic and should prove just as durable.
“Through Birds, Through Fire” is immediately identifiable as of a piece with Lightcap’s previous album with the four-piece. As they parse the melody and rhythm of the piece, electric guitarists Jonathan Goldberger and Curtis Hasselbring’s supple lines ripple in sync with the vigorous double drum work of Dan Rieser and Gerald Cleaver. The leader adds accents with his bass, too, so the instrumental action becomes as dense as it is fluid. Meanwhile, keyboardist Craig Taborn might not be able to find space for his instruments if his own playing was not so instinctively quick; yet he, like everyone in this ensemble is supremely patient, taking heed of the tone set by the leader.
A slightly more contemplative piece, “Zero Point Five,” highlights the interplay between the tenor saxophones of Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby. There Taborn’s piano rings loud and clear against the slightly distorted backdrop of the electric guitars. Originally premiered live in 2017 and now preserved for posterity in this recording co-produced by the bandleader and David Breskin, SuperBigmouth benefits from the precision-honed in concert: track sequencing through the eight originals of Lightcap’s culminates with “Sanctuary City” and thus radiates the logic of a well-constructed performance. In fact, that final cut not only sounds of a piece with the pair that immediately precede it, “Nothing If Not” and “Quinine,” but seems the inevitable conclusion of that progression.
Adding to the cumulative effect of the individual performances is the clarity of construction within Chris Lightcap’s compositions. The palpable abandon in the octet’s playing compels SuperBigmouth to be played at high volume in order to maximize impact in turns visceral (“Queenside”) and cerebral (“False Equivalency). On headphones or not, it is a heady listening experience and for all the careful organization that went into it (reflected in the audio mix org chart inside the digi-pak), the roughly fifty-minute overall playing time of this Pyroclastic Records title constitutes one sustained moment of collective inspiration.
If Chris Lightcap and company prove anything here—besides the fact this work compels many repeated listenings—it is that the intersection of jazz and rock can represent a flash-point of inspiration as potent as the convergence of material and musicianship.