From L to R: Gerald Cleaver, Dan Rieser, Jonathan Goldberger, Curtis Hasselbring, Chris Cheek, Chris Lightcap, Tony Malaby, and Craig Taborn. Photo courtesy of the artist.
For a working musician in New York, it’s common to play in multiple ensembles. It’s not too uncommon to be a bandleader for two or more groups. It’s rare, however, when a bandleader decides to take two freestanding bands and create a new project combining every member of both groups. That’s exactly what Chris Lightcap has done with SuperBigmouth, a combination of his longstanding groups Bigmouth and Superette. The mega-band features all eight members of the two bands, including keyboardist Craig Taborn, tenor saxophonists Tony Malaby and Chris Cheek, guitarists Jonathan Goldberger and Curtis Hasselbring, and drummers Gerald Cleaver and Dan Rieser. The full lineup will hit the stage at The Jazz Gallery on October 3rd to celebrate the release of their upcoming album. We spoke with Lightcap on the phone about the logistics of leading a larger project, the musical opportunities afforded by overlapping instrumentation, and perhaps most importantly, all the details on his adorable new puppy.
The Jazz Gallery: How have you been? Is now a good time to chat?
Chris Lightcap: Yep, now is cool, let me just check something… We just got a puppy, so I just want to see if she’s doing okay [laughs]. Everything looks good.
TJG: Aw! What kind of puppy?
CL: They’re calling them Bernedoodles: She’s a Bernese Mountain Dog mixed with a Miniature Poodle. So, a mini Bernedoodle.
TJG: Wow. How’d you decide on that breed?
CL: There’s one in our building already. We met this dog, and he’s completely amazing. We got in touch with the same breeder that they used. We wanted to get a rescue dog, but any time you find a poodle mix at a shelter, it’s usually been spoken for–my wife’s allergic to dogs, so we needed some kind of poodle mix. We decided to bite the bullet and go for this breeder. Amazingly, two weeks later, our neighbors from across the street showed up with a puppy from the exact same litter: Our puppy’s sister. Our neighbors got the same idea when they met the other Bernedoodle in our building. So, our puppy has her sister living across the street from us, and her half-brother living downstairs.
TJG: You’ve got a whole block full of Bernedoodles.
CL: Yeah, it’s all Bernedoodles all the time now [laughs].
TJG: It’s not so common for a touring musician to get a pet.
CL: It was a stretch, for sure. But she seems to be pretty easy, as far as puppies go. We have a million great dog walkers in the neighborhood, and it’s a very dog-friendly neighborhood. I know several musicians around who have dogs, and they’ve given me a lot of great advice about how to tour when you have a dog, what to do when you get out of town, different boarding options. My wife and I have two older kids now, 10 and 14, who get themselves home from school and help out. It’s not as overwhelming as it might seem.