Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Lightcap, Chris (Robert Christian Lightcap)

Lightcap, Chris [Robert Christian Lightcap], bass, composer; b. Latrobe, PA, 23 1971.

Lightcap started out on the piano at age eight, switched to violin at nine and began to teach himself the electric bass at fourteen. He studied jazz briefly with area bassist Eric Pantalone in 1987. He simultaneously played violin in a local youth symphony and took gigs on bass guitar with local rock bands as well as his school's jazz and concert bands. An interest in the upright bass gradually developed but as his high school had no orchestral program, he didn't start playing the instrument until the age of seventeen. While attending the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts in the summer of 1988, he took classical double bass lessons with Nadja Gale and studied improvisation and jazz harmony with pianist George W. Russell. Lessons with Pittsburgh-area symphonic bassist Robert Skavronksi followed during his senior year in high school. Undecided about a career, Lightcap enrolled at Williams College (Williamstown MA), in the fall of 1989.

At William, Lightcap eventually majored in music, although he also focused on literature, art history, and religion, among other fields. During this period he studied with classical bassists Jeff Levine and Roy Wiseman, jazz bassists Cameron Brown and Michael Marcus, composers Robert Suderburg, David Kechley and Alvin Lucier, arranger/pianist/composer Andy Jaffe, trumpeter Bill Dixon and percussionist Milford Graves. In 1990 he attended the Skidmore Jazz Institute where he had the opportunity to study and perform with bassist Milt Hinton. While attending Wesleyan University for a semester he studied and performed with drummer Edward Blackwell shortly before his death in 1992.  During his senior year in college he wrote a composition thesis, an extended piece for full orchestra, which was awarded highest honors. Around this time he was also awarded Williams' Hutchinson fellowship arts grant as well as the Music department's composition prize. Upon graduating with a B.A. in music in 1993 he moved to his current home, New York City.

The Hutchinson grant afforded him the luxury of taking only part-time jobs to support himself as he met musicians at sessions and gradually took more and more gigs at night. During that time he met many peers with whom he forged long-lasting musical relationships. He discovered that he enjoyed working with a wide array of material and contexts, and regularly found himself performing at Small's, the Knitting Factory, Tonic, Roulette, Augies, and the Blue Note within any given month. He performed weekly with the Cecil Taylor Big Band for several months in 1995, and in Paris he played in a trio with Archie Shepp and Sunny Murray for a televised performance the next year. For the next two years he performed regularly in a trio led by George Garzone throughout New York City. Eventually he quit his day jobs and went on to work with such musicians as Paquito D'Riviera, John Abercrombie, Anthony Braxton, Sheila Jordan, Butch Morris, Tom Harrell, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Marc Ribot. In 1998 he was invited by guitarist Joe Morris to join his quartet, which was the start of an ongoing partnership that brought Lightcap to festivals around Europe and produced three albums. He also became a regular member of the Whit Dickey Trio, the Rob Brown Quartet, and Anthony Colemanis short-lived Trio Oblomov. Meanwhile he continued his writing efforts, contributing compositions to various cooperative bands and side projects.

In 1998 he assembled his own quartet with drummer Gerald Cleaver and tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and Bill McHenry. Lightcap's debut as a leader, Lay-Up, was rated as one of the year's best by the New York Times. Around this time Lightcap and Cleaver began to be featured as a rhythm section in a variety of bands and projects, and the two recorded together on a half dozen CDs by Craig Taborn, Joe Morris, Ben Waltzer, and others. In a New York Times review of one of his quartet's performances, Ben Ratliff wrote: "Mr. Lightcap is one of the few musicians working these days who has the breadth and inclination to divide his working life between what's called avant jazz and the mainstream."

Since mid-2000 Chris has performed and toured extensively as the bassist for jazz violinist Regina Carter. He has been featured alongside the rest of her quintet with various major symphony orchestras including the Boston Pops and the Atlanta and Minnesota Symphonies.  He has also toured and played major festivals with such bandleaders as Mark Turner, Ravi Coltrane, Matt Wilson, and Terrel Stafford.

He currently lives in Brooklyn NY with his wife, Victoria Lynn Torres.

Lay-Up (1999); Bigmouth (2002)
As sideperson:
Craig Taborn: Light Made Lighter (2001); Joe Morris Quartet: A Cloud of Blackbirds (1998), At the Old Office (1999), Underthru (1999); Ben Waltzer: In Metropolitan Motion (1999); Whit Dickey: Transonic (1998), Big Top (1999); Butch Morris: Vision One (Various Artists) (1997); Various Artists (Marc Ribot, Anthony Coleman): With Every Breath (1998-99); Norman Yamada: Being and Time (1997); Rob Brown: Scratching the Surface (1997); Jumping Off the Page (1999); David Sayers Quartet: Misfit (2000); Derek Bronston: Longing (featuring Tom Harrell) (1998); Art Fuller: Conversation, Structure & Rhythm (1997); PLK Trio: Bab Bab (1997-98); Yoav Polachek: Standards First (1999)

Select TV Performances:
With Regina Carter Quintet: CNN (2000), "Today in New Yorki"NBC, (2001), Oxygen Network (2002), "Evening at the Boston Pops" ,PBS (2002), "Sixty Minutes 2" CBS (2002)
live performance from the 2002 Brecon Jazz Festival, BBC (2002)
With the Joe Morris Quartet: "Live from the Knitting Factory" from the 1999 Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival, BET on Jazz (1999)
With Archie Shepp and Sunny Murray: live trio performance at Les Jardins Des Tuileries, Paris, France, national French television (1996)


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