Superette’ is the debut album from revered bassist and composer Chris Lightcap’s electrifying experimental band featuring guitarists Curtis Hasselbring and Jonathan Goldberger and drummer Dan Rieser, along with special guests Nels Cline and John Medeski. An endeavor for those who seek true 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.
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with the electric guitar,” says bassist and composer Chris Lightcap, explaining the impetus behind his 2018 Royal Potato Family release ‘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 an adolescent discovery of classic rock albums by The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, a slew of teenage garage bands where he first cut his teeth as an electric bass player, 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 huge sound, propulsive groove and creative vision to an impressively wide array of prominent artists in the fields of jazz and beyond, including Regina Carter, Glen Hansard, Marc Ribot and Cecil Taylor. For the past 15 years he has also led Bigmouth, one of today’s most accomplished groups, each of 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, while returning 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, in which I’d play bass guitar,” says Lightcap, explaining the genesis behind Superette (which is the name of the band, as well as the album). “I wanted it to reference my favorite guitar-driven instrumental, psych and garage music like Link Wray, Love and The Monks as a jumping off point, 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.”
Hasselbring is also an accomplished composer and trombonist who leads the critically acclaimed New Mellow Edwards and has collaborated with Medeski Martin & Wood, Slavic Soul Party, John Hollenbeck, Golem, and Tom Harrell. On ‘Superette,’ he shows off his biting telecaster tone and contributes the brilliant anthems “Far Away Planet” and “Frozen Bread.”
Lightcap first played with Goldberger in a big band about ten years ago. “I was struck by the depth and range of his sound, as well as his orchestral approach to the instrument.” Goldberger can be frequently heard as a member of the well-travelled Red Baraat, and has also worked with Jim Black, John Zorn and Joe Russo.
Lightcap’s relationship with Dan Rieser goes back to his first years living in New York, where the two often played everything from jazz trio gigs to singer-songwriter shows around town. One of New York’s best and most versatile drummers, Rieser went on to tour the world with multi-platinum selling Marcy Playground and has also played and recorded with Norah Jones and Rosanne Cash. “Although we haven’t always worked together over the years as regularly as I would have liked, I always dreamed of putting a band together that would have Dan on drums.”
Whether diving into Lightcap’s Mali-by-way-of-Redondo theme “Djyali,” 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 invite his friends, guitarist Nels Cline and organist John Medeski, to play on select cuts. “I knew they’d fit in fit in effortlessly, and what they contributed was even better than I could’ve imagined.”
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 Sony record, “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.