Chris Lightcap busts a cap in conventions: The bassist includes two tenor saxophonists in the quartet he formed five years ago, featuring them in edgy dialogue on his first album, Lay-Up, and in nervy conversation on the funky follow-up, Bigmouth (both on Fresh Sound New Talent). The 31-year-old isn't anti-piano; he just strikes chords with tenor saxophonists.
"I knew so many great tenor players in New York City," he says. "I actually got comfortable with not having a piano player in the band because of, well, the absence of pianos." The bassist's pragmatism extends to his playing, as well. As a soloist, Lightcap is hard on the bop. As a composer, he's loose and lenient, leaving space for players' personalities to direct the shapes of their improvisations. "As composing goes, I don't think of myself as a puppet master," Lightcap says. "Sometimes I write less than more. I played with Joe Morris a lot, and he always talked about using tunes as springboards-providing a set of implications for improvisers."
Lightcap grew up in Latrobe, Penn., playing violin and piano before moving to electric bass and, ultimately, acoustic. He trekked to New York City the day he graduated from Williams College in 1993, and, with high aspirations on the low registers, began playing with Cecil Taylor, Paquito D'Rivera, John Abercrombie, Anthony Braxton, Jeff "Tain" Watts and others. He gigged with Archie Shepp for a year in Paris and currently tours with Regina Carter. "Playing in Regina's band has helped me develop as a player," Lightcap says. "She's such a strong presence and leader. She expects you to contribute and not just stay in the background, and we communicate well on the road, which helps us play music together. People who think music doesn't have to do with who you are off the bandstand are doing themselves a disservice." Says Carter of her bassist: "Chris is a quirky character, and it comes through in his playing-that's what I like about it."