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Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Bring Their ‘A’ Game

Karl Ackermann By

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Bring Their 'A' Game is the second of guitarist Jon Lundbom's Big Five Chord, four-part series of 2016 EPs which will be offered as individual discs and as a box set. Each of the releases, on Moppa Elliott's Hot Cup Records label, runs approximately one half-hour and like the preceding entry, Make Magic Happen, the three long tracks make for adventurous listening. The group radiates with hard bop sensibility and a methodical madness that's almost impossible to turn away from.

Along with Elliott—on bass—label-mate Jon Irabagon (also of Mostly Other People Do the Killing [MOPDtK]) is on alto saxophone with saxophonist Bryan Murray—aka "Balto Exclamationpoint"— playing his own hybrid sax and the versatile drummer Dan Monaghan rounding out the group. With the exception of Monaghan, the core group has been intact since its 2009 debut.

The back-and-forth swing of "Wrapped" modulates speeds following Irabagon and Murray's continuous hard bop lines. Eventually, the piece finds a more melodic center before the saxophones engage in an ending give-and-take. "Worth" features Irabagon's deceptively smooth entry into deconstructed themes, enhanced with technical excursions beyond the characteristic boundaries of the alto. Underneath, the guitar accompaniment is disjointed and counter to smooth sax lines. The plaintive tone of Lundbom's later solo dominates the slow, bluesy second half of the piece. As on the previous recording, an Ornette Coleman composition closes Bring Their 'A' Game; "W.R.U." is played with a healthy swing for much of its nine minutes but that mixes with some open improvisations as it moves toward its conclusion.

Like the first EP in this series Lundbom and his Big Five Chord often choose unexplored paths to interpret these pieces. The democratic group approach allows each of these top-tier innovators to stretch while their interplay and group dynamics are flawless. Complex and angular lines are contrasted with the full sound of reeds; Lundbom's notes and phrases move in and out of focus while Monaghan manages to hold all of together. It's a high-wire act that doesn't let down.

Track Listing: Wrapped; Worth; W.R.U.

Personnel: Jon Lundbom: guitar; Moppa Elliot: bass; Dan Monaghan:drums; Jon Irabogon: alto saxophone; Bryan Murray (aka: Balto Exclamationpoint): tenor sax, prepared tenor sax; balto!saxophone.

Title: Bring Their ‘A’ Game | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Hot Cup Records

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