‘Superette’ is the debut album from revered bassist and composer Chris Lightcap’s electrifying experimental band of the same name featuring guitarists Curtis Hasselbring and Jonathan Goldberger and drummer Dan Rieser, along with special guests Nels Cline and John Medeski. A recording for those who seek genre-defying exploration in music, Lightcap and company fearlessly guide the listener through soundscapes of surf, harmolodics, Mali-trance, psych and beyond, delivering a riveting sonic journey. Hear and share the album’s first single “Djali” here, which is out today on all digital streaming and download services.
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the electric guitar,” says Lightcap, explaining the impetus behind ‘Superette.’ “From the first moment I heard the opening chords of [Elton John’s] ‘Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)’ at three years old, I knew I was hooked.”
That watershed moment eventually led Lightcap to begin playing music in his own right. He cut his teeth as an electric bass player with a slew of teenage garage bands, ultimately leading to his discovery of the upright bass, jazz and improvised music, which culminated with a move to New York City in the early ’90s. Since then, Chris has lent his creative vision to an impressively wide array of prominent artists in jazz and beyond, including Regina Carter, Glen Hansard, Marc Ribot and Cecil Taylor. For the past 15 years he has also led Bigmouth, whose last two releases were mainstays of countless year-end “best of” lists, including the New York Times, NPR and JazzTimes.
Lightcap’s writing for Bigmouth’s two-tenor frontline is inspired by West African music, classic pop hooks and great composers from across the musical spectrum to create melodies and harmonic landscapes as jumping off points for group improvisation. With ‘Superette,’ he draws on many of those same influences, but instead returns to the sound of the electric guitar for inspiration.
“In 2013 I first discussed the idea of an all electric, two-guitar band with Curtis Hasselbring, in which I’d play bass guitar,” says Lightcap, explaining the genesis behind the project. “I wanted it to reference my favorite guitar-driven instrumental, psych and garage music like Link Wray, Love and The Monks, but also to be a group in which the musicians could experiment with all kinds of different sounds and grooves, and be able to be as interactive and free flowing as we wanted it to be, like a jazz group would. Along with Curtis I invited guitarist Jonathan Goldberger and drummer Dan Rieser—both of whom I played with on and off again over the years—to join the band. From there, Superette was born.”
Whether diving into Lightcap’s Mali-by-way-of-Redondo theme “Dyali,” exploring the wide open spaces of “While You Were Out,” or covering Neil Young’s haunting ballad “Birds,” Superette moves effortlessly between pieces of material with a consistency that makes it all sound like one music, rather than a genre-hopping, eclectic approach.
‘Superette’ was recorded by legendary engineer Ron Saint Germain at the iconic Sear Sound studio in New York City, and produced by Lightcap and David Breskin. When the opportunity to record came, Lightcap decided to also invite his friends, guitarist Nels Cline and organist John Medeski, to play on select cuts.
The well-known Wilco guitar hero Cline, who also leads several projects featuring Lightcap on upright bass, delivers blistering lines on “Far Away Planet” and Link Wray’s “Ace of Spades.” On “Light Trails” he soars above the group with a beautiful introductory lap steel statement.
Medeski, with whom Lightcap first worked while recording Matt Wilson’s 2014 album ‘Gathering Call’ reminds listeners that he possesses one of the most distinctive musical voices to ever emanate through a Leslie speaker. On “Calling on Cars” and “Far Away Planet,” he plumbs the sonic depths of the Hammond B3, creating wide sonic swaths and vast harmonic underpinnings, while on “She Walked In” and “Light Trails,” he crafts solos that rhythmically work both inside and against the groove in a most revelatory way.
Lightcap has toured and recorded with Craig Taborn, Archie Shepp, Tomasz Stanko, Julian Lage, Joe Morris and many others. His playing can be heard on over 70 albums, most recently on Taborn’s acclaimed ECM Records’ release, ‘Daylight Ghosts’ and Regina Carter’s ‘Ella: Accentuate the Positive.’ ‘Superette’ is Lightcap’s fifth release as a bandleader and composer, and he has been awarded commissions and production grants from Chamber Music America and the Shifting Foundation.