Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Chris Lightcap's "Deluxe" and the Difference Between Fusion and Jazz-Rock

Chris Lightcap and his 1956 (?) Oldsmobile can travel on into my neighborhood and play any time they like. He, his ensemble Bigmouth, and his new record Deluxe (Clean Feed 174) are welcome! Why? Because his acoustic bass, his compositions and arrangements, and his choice of players for me epitomise how jazz-rock is vitally alive. In the right hands, it speaks, it moves.

And these are the right hands.

Why jazz-rock? Why not call it fusion? Because to me there's a difference. Without casting aspersions on either genre, I would say that jazz-rock (beginning from the time of Gary Burton's first pioneering forays in this area), uses a rock beat and rock stylistic aspects but moulds them into a jazz context. That is to say, the style of soloing generally is more on the jazz side of the equation than the rock. Fusion often veers more in the direction of a complex funk than rock, though that isn't always so. The written music is technically complex, not necessarily out of the jazz vocabulary, and draws upon other world musics. Solos are sometimes more rock driven, and sometimes world driven. So that's the difference essentially for me.

Either genre has plenty of life left in it. Chris Lightcap and his ensemble show that most clearly for the jazz-rock side. This is an impressive band. Cheek and Malaby do the reeds, with an apparently healthy Andrew D'Angelo adding his say for three of the eight numbers. The rhythm section of Taborn, Lightcap and Cleaver blow into our ears with confidence, a sense of purpose and a combination of subtlety and drive.

Needless to say, Chris Lightcap can just be appreciated for his bass solo and ensemble work alone. But his musical vehicles are not shopworn either. They give direction and form. They give some very formidable players a springboard for their prowess and vitality. And there's just a hint of retro here, with the electric piano especially a part of that.

Sometimes music writing is like listing the ingredients of a soup. One hopes it will give the reader an idea of what has gone into the music. But as a recipe is not the soup itself, music writing is not the music. It's all in the tasting. I recommend you try a bowl.

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