Blessed with one of the most talented and exciting backing bands in jazz today, guitarist Jon Lundbom
returns with a mammoth 2-CD live epic. Liverevil
captures the band in performance on their hometown stomping grounds, Brooklyn Fire Proof, in front of a rightfully enthusiastic crowd. Easily able to sustain interest over the course of a double album, Lundbom and Big Five Chord mix up their program of open-ended original jazz compositions with a set of traditional Wiccan prayer songs and a cover of "North Star" by the indie folk band Rural Alberta Advantage
. They also revisit previously recorded material such as "Have You Ever Seen A Woman As Big As Martha?" which appeared on Lundbom's first two albums Big Five Chord
(self-produced, 2003), and All The Pretty Ponies
(self-produced, 2005), "On Jacation" from Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! Quavers!
(Hot Cup Records, 2011), and "Tick Dog" from Accomplish Jazz
(Hot Cup Records, 2009). Plus there's a gaggle of never-previously-recorded originals.
Big Five Chord has a well-defined sound that combines elements of post-bop, free jazz, and jazz-rock but sounds like "none of the above." Part of this is the organic, jam-centric nature of the music. If you have guys like Lundbom, Jon Irabagon
, and Bryan Murray
in your band; you want to hear them solo
! Also, the band members are drawn from a pool of musicians who've had a lot of experience studying and playing together in a variety of settings. Bassist Moppa Elliott
and saxophonist Jon Irabagon are in Mostly Other People Do the Killing
, and have been with Big Five Chord since its inception 11 years ago. Those two, along with Lundbom, also play in Bryan And The Haggards
, saxophonist Bryan Murray's Merle Haggard
tribute band. In short, there's a massive amount of playing experience here, and the musicians' comfort with one another really shines through on these live performances.
Though uniformly a great listen, the highlight of the two-disc set are the Wiccan prayer songs on CD#1. Lundbom is clearly fond of off-the- wall cover material; Big Five Chord's previous covers have included works by the Louvin Brothers
, Syd Barrett
, and Dr. Seuss
. The prayer songs are moody, minor key pieces with long-ish melodies and open-ended structures which make them ideal vehicles for extended improvisational investigation. Keyboardist Matt Kanelos
gets a hefty dose of spotlight on "Our Sun," and his Rhodes (or Rhodes- sounding keyboard) imparts more than a whiff of Bitches Brew to the proceedings. "Now Is The Time/The Maypole Dance" has a decidedly Eastern European flavor, sounding a bit like something Mihaly Dresch Dudas
might've cooked up during one of his jazz-cum-Hungarian folk music smörgåsbords. Irabagon picks up on this immediately, and his typically daring, creative solo could be the work of a free jazz- obsessed Bulgarian wedding band saxophonist. Kanelos returns to impart icy Rhodes chill upon "First Harvest / Evening Shadows." This medley has a keening, Greensleeves-like 6/8 Druidic ritual feel, and benefits from Lundbom's incendiary soloing, which is followed by a completely insane duet improv by the saxophonists: Irabagon on soprano and Murray on balto (an alto saxophone played using a baritone saxophone mouthpiece and a plastic reed). Through it all, Elliott and drummer Dan Monaghan
provide an incessantly simmering jazz groove.
The second disc is no less engaging. The band works with slower, heavier rhythmic feels throughout much of it. These are handled quite deftly by Monaghan, who's a master of a sort of jazz / rock / marching drum hybrid that sounds a little like a second line on Quaaludes. This approach works brilliantly on "Bring Forth The Battalions" and "Have You Ever Seen A Woman As Big As Martha." "On Jacation" is one of Lundbom's more idiosyncratic pieces, with a ricky-ticky little sing- song melody-something like Ornette Coleman
's "Dancing in Your Head"-that gets repeated incessantly by various band members during the others' solos. By contrast, "These Changes" has a forward-leaning funky / mathy M-BASE
feel and more snaky, incisive Rhodes from Kanelos. Despite getting a jazz makeover, "North Star" is surprisingly true to the original, though it gets taken way, way out. Lundbom is clearly not delving into this tune for irony's sake, and the result is a sincere coup de chapeau
to a little-known but great indie rock band. ..."Martha" ends the album on a goofy, hyperactive note, with more jazz-march drumming and great solos by everyone.