Guitarist Jon Lundbom, with his Big Five Chord quintet, has developed the unusual marketing strategy of individually presenting each of a series of four EPs (at lower price points) over the course of 2016 with an option to purchase all as a box set. At approximately one half-hour each, it's a generous proposition; more so, given the quality of the music as witnessed on the first of these releases, Make Magic Happen
Big Five Chord is a solidly established staple of Moppa Elliott
's Hot Cup Records label, cross- pollinated with label-mates Jon Irabagon
on alto saxophone and bassist, Elliott, both of Mostly Other People Do the Killing (MOPDtK). Perhaps not so surprisingly, there is something of a stylistic similarity between the two groups as well. Big Five Chord expertly juggles boisterousness and refinement in an atmosphere of controlled chaos. Make Magic Happen
consists of two Lundbom originals and one Ornette Coleman
Lundbom is a master of animated and intensely concentrated improvisation and his playing is capable of producing a full range of moods. Saxophonists Bryan Murray
credited as "Balto Exclamationpoint" plays his own hybrid sax that is part alto, part baritone and utilizes a plastic reed. More points here for inventiveness than for acoustics which can sometimes sound like a kazoo on steroids. The adaptable drummer Dan Monaghan
is on the jazz faculty at his alma mater, Temple University, and has performed with saxophonist Eric Alexander
and Randy Brecker
"Ain't Cha" opens with the reeds out front but Elliott and Monaghan soon guide a transition to a Lundbom's intensely visceral and dynamic lead, one that is much in the rock vein. "La Bomb" is considerably more subdued with subtly off- kilter horns setting up a low, rumbling Lundbom solo before Irabagon and Murray regain control. Coleman's "Law Years" closes the set and, early on, gives us one of Elliott's richest extended solos in a spotlight that he too infrequently takes for himself.
Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord tread dangerous waters on their recordings. The cooperative nature of improvisations and the willingness to play outside the formal limits of jazz, combined with touches of humor all make for challenging navigation. Nevertheless, they pull it off with largely successful results. If Make Magic Happen
is an indication of the upcoming EPs in the larger collection, it promises to be one of the significant music events of the year.
Ain't Cha; La Bomb; Law Years.
Jon Lundbom: guitar; Moppa Elliot: bass; Dan Monaghan:drums; Jon Irabogon: alto saxophone; Balto Exclamationpoint: tenor sax, prepared tenor sax; balto!saxophone