Jon Irabagon / Justin Wood / Sam Kulik / Bryan Murray / Jon Lundbom / Moppa Elliott / Dan Monaghan

February 6, 2015


Hot Cup 142

By Ken Waxman

Happily Jon Lundbom is a guitarist. For if the leader of Big Five Chord played a horn he might have trouble improvising with his tongue stuck firmly in his check. Composer and chief instigator of Jeremiah’s seven tracks, the now Austin-based Lundbom, like his Hot Cup label mate and Big Five Chord bassist Moppa Elliott, creates hard-swinging tunes that also have a sardonic edge.

Chief sidekick in providing these sly sonic winks as the tunes are performed is saxophonist Bryan Murray, leader of the country/jazz unit Bryan & the Haggards, of which the guitarist is also a member. Throughout Murray emphasizes the disruptive qualities of his horns, with the timbres from tenor saxophone and balto! saxophone – an alto with a baritone mouthpiece and a plastic reed – snarling and stretching sandpaper-like tones as if he’s bar-walking in the funkiest roadhouse imaginable. Prime example of this is on “First Harvest” as the tenor’s hard-edged growl leaps out to toughen up the meandering melody. Also in on the mordant japes in this, the Five Chords’ seventh CD, are soprano saxophonist Jon Irabagon, trombonist Sam Kulik and Justin Wood on alto saxophone and flute. Drummer Dan Monaghan and Elliott keep the beat constantly shifting between shuffle and swing. Meantime another of the session’s highlights occurs on “Scratch Ankle”, where a thrilling exchange of unbridled enthusiasm between the trombonist’s drooling, gutbucket smears and Irabagon’s slippery nasality is framed by controlled melodic lines.

There’s style besides snark on show here, since the strength of Lundbom’s arrangements provide the sophisticated fillip to themes that on the surface would appear to be little more than exercises in rock and raunch. The bluesy “Frog Eye”, for instance, at points resembles a Lounge Lizards’ out-take. But the tune’s construction is such that Lundbom’s supple fingering adds a sense of architectural space to an edifice previously built from cushioning textures of the vamping horn choir. Or take the final, recorded live “Screamer”. In spite of the free-for-all suggested by its title – augmented by positioned and pumping strokes from the bassist and drummer – most of the thematic overlay is surprising melodic. Wood’s alto solo is lyrically moderate and the guitar fills relate more to Tal Farlow/Jimmy Raney suppleness than head and foot banging rocker strategies. Taste can be equated with torque here.

Overall Big Five Chord’s music allows you to think while having a raucous good time. One further clue to the complexity of this guitarist-led septet is that its name involves two more chords than the apocryphal rock guitarist is supposed to be capable of playing.

Tracks: The Bottle; Frog Eye; Scratch Ankle; First Harvest; Lick Skiller, Wiccan Prayer Song Melody; Screamer

Personnel: Sam Kulik: trombone; Jon Irabagon: soprano saxophone; Justin Wood: alto saxophone, flute; Bryan Murray: tenor and balto! saxophones; Jon Lundbom: guitar; Moppa Elliott: bass; Dan Monaghan: drums

–For The New York City Jazz Record February 2015