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Chris Lightcap: Superette (Royal Potato Family)

Review of debut album by the bassist's all-electric quartet

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Cover of Chris Lightcap album Superette
Cover of Chris Lightcap album Superette

Chipping away at musty genres and sculpting the scraps to suit a recombinant vision has been a jazz strategy for decades now, but occasionally, a record comes along that nails the art of the blend with enough inspiration to sound truly novel. Should’ve figured that Chris Lightcap would be one guy who could pull it off. The bassist is an ace sideman, bringing smarts to every band he works with; he’s also the deft leader of Bigmouth, a two-reeds-’n’-rhythm outfit that spent the last 15 years exposing how attractive a blend of counterpoint and consonance can be. Superette (the name of the band as well as the album) is a two-guitar-and-rhythm affair, and like its predecessor, its inclusive purview syncs past and present with pop and jazz. The resultant mélange is wildly entertaining.

With Superette, Lightcap uses surf rock as a very pliable base, but adds dollops of prog, funk, math rock, and other intricate string lingos, including the glistening swirl of African outfits. The detailed interplay between guitarists Curtis Hasselbring and Jonathan Goldberger is simultaneously tight and loose; drummer Dan Rieser works closely with the bassist/leader, bringing a lilt to even the densest passages. Echoes and references fly by without belaboring their individual import—fleeting images from the window of a fast-moving train.

The Surfaris’ “Wipe Out” provides the DNA for “Ace of Spades,” and guest Nels Cline rides its gallop into the stratosphere. John Medeski’s insightful organ antics decorate a handful of tracks as well. But the core group rocks this stuff with a bar band’s informal aplomb. Whether it’s a nod to John McLaughlin’s raunchy strums from Miles’ “Right Off” on “Frozen Bread” or the wistful dreamscape of an overlooked Skip Spence nugget, the program comes off as both foreign and familiar. Call it vivid twangadelica with a grin on its face.

Preview, buy or download Superette on Amazon!

Originally Published