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Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Make Magic Happen

Dan McClenaghan By

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The computer/internet age ushers in new ways of selling music. Record stores, flipping through bins of long playing albums—long gone. Compact discs—not selling like they used to. Digital downloads—the thing of the future? Guitarist Jon Lundbom has come up with the idea—influenced by trumpeter Dave Douglas' foray into this territory, perhaps, with his Three Views (Greenleaf, 2011)—of releasing four digital EPs, "extended play" sets that clock in at about thirty minutes apiece, spreading those releases over the course of nine months, then collecting those digital releases and and offering them up as four physical EPs and selling the product as a reasonably-price box set.

Lundbom and his main musical vehicle, Big Five Chord, begin this journey with the first of the four EPs, Make Magic Happen, one of the most adventurous, schizoid, raucous, rip-roaring rock/jazz/bass-and-drum-thumping/wild-men-at-the saxophones wailing/soaring guitar amalgams you'll hear in modern music. The twenty-eight minute set contain three tunes—two Lundbom originals and an Ornette Coleman cover.

In a day of seventy-eight minute CD releases, a set just under a half an hour long is easily absorbable. As ragged and rough around the edges as this sound seems on first listen, there is an underlying tightness and continuity of vision that holds this set together. The two saxophonists, Bryan Murray (aka Balto Exclamationpoint) and Jon Irabagon swing their respective axes with abandon. Bassist Moppa Elliott and drummer Dan Monaghan lay down deep, heavy-gravity grooves for guitarist Lundbom's unfettered, screaming guitar on the opener, "Ain't Cha."

The group sounds something like a reincarnation of the Rockin' Rebels, on their 1963 Swan Records single, "Wild Weekend," squawking and honking saxophones pushing the surf rock sound into another dimension, the guitar freed of any family friendly, two and a half minute radio constraints, or any requirement to keep itself tethered to the Earth.

A part of the appealing strangeness of Big Five Chord's sound come from Balto Exclamationpoint and his use of his creation, the balto! saxophone—an alto sax fitted with a bari sax mouthpiece and a plastic reed. The music it makes is described, accurately, as a "goose strangling sound." And if that doesn't take things out to the edge enough, Murray (Balto Exclamationpoint) employs, on the closer, Ornette Coleman's "Law Years," a "thunder tube," a 7x2&1/2 tube with a drum head at one end attached to a 17" long spring. This tube is then inserted into the bell of a tenor saxophone—after the trip to the Home Depot to buy the parts to construct this contraption, we can guess. It sounds like a saxophone made inexpertly out of galvanized steel. In a good way.

Odd and innovative, and compelling. Music that hits you in the gut.

Track Listing: Ain't Cha; La Bomb; Law Years.

Personnel: Jon Lundbom: guitar; Moppa Elliot: bass; Dan Monaghan:drums; Jon Irabogon: alto saxophone; Balto Exclamationpoint: tenor sax, prepared tenor sax; balto!saxophone

Title: Make Magic Happen | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Hot Cup Records

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