Wednesday, March 10, 2010

CD review: Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord - Accomplish Jazz

Jon Lundbom& Big Five Chord
Accomplish Jazz
(Hot Cup)

"Truncheon" starts off Accomplish Jazz with an opening line that sounds rather evocative of Eric Dolphy's "Out to Lunch." The similarity doesn't quite extend beyond that phrase, which ends with a long sustained note from the tenor and alto saxophones while guitarist/leader Lundbom does some pretty picking underneath them. But considering the name of the tune, which could be a mash-up of Dolphy's title and how the band takes this tune back to the trenches, it seems like less a coincidence than my bad habit of hearing similarities between different songs.

Besides, it's a great jumping off point no matter what the origin.

Lundbom is an intriguing composer and an even more idiosyncratic guitar player, writing songs that have wonderfully odd melodic quirks and playing solos with a tone that wouldn't be out of place in country music. Good country music. To further that point, Accomplish Jazz's one non-original track is a cover of the Louvin Brothers' "The Christian Life." That particular song choice could carry its own baggage with it (irony, understated religious beliefs) but the quintet plays it reverently, so nothing else matters.

Part of the power of this disc can be traced to the caliber of the band, which includes two members of Mostly Other People Do the Killing: alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon and bassist Moppa Elliott, who it turns out was born with the first name Matthew, according to the credits. (Just a little extra surprise for those of us who care about the backgrounds of musicians.) Bryan Murray, who co-leads another band with Lundbom, plays tenor saxophone. Danny Fischer, who apparently made a name for himself in native Melbourne, Australia before hitting New York, plays drums.

Irabagon balances his frenzied MOPDtK side and the more straight laced personality heard on his recent Concord debut. After Lundbom's solo on "Truncheon," the saxophonist enters playing fast lines over top of the rhythm section without letting his sometimes whiny vocalizing digress into shrieks. He realizes that would be too easy. Elliott shows amazing discipline during the 12-minute sort-of ballad "Phoenetics" by holding down the tempo with metronomic double-stops while Lundbom's metallic, dreamy noise drives Irabagon from pensiveness into pungent upper range honks. When Lundbom enters for his own solo, his clean tone makes him sound like a different guitarist, and his crisp execution is spellbinding.

Murray's solo on "The Christian Life" starts with a smooth, almost gospel swing that incorporates guttural singing/growling through the horn as he blows. "Tick-Dog" begins with four minutes of a choppy guitar/drums duet before moving into a loopy rhythm that is based on Cedar Walton's "Bolivia" but also seems to have either the spirit or flair of both Tim Berne and prog rock. Murray's solo works over the horn's whole range, stringing together small phrases that make a fascinating whole. He also inspires the rhythm section to turn up the heat as they in turn drive him.

"Baluba, Baluba" uses a solid funk backbeat and Lundbom avoids funky riffage in favor of another unique melody line, delivered with a bit of distortion. After Irabagon delivers another satisfying journey of a solo, the groove slows down and Lundbom and Murray call, respond, agree with, interrupt and eventually talk over one another. Like the opening track, this one doesn't go back to the theme, it simply stops when guitar and sax have said their piece. That type of arrangement makes the music stand out more because it confounds listeners expecting to hear the head again, and it leaves more of a lasting impression. The same can be said for this whole album.

Since it came out in December, it's still eligible to wind up on 2010 year end lists, where it clearly belongs.

For some reason, Mr. Lundbom's review has drawn a lot of spammers on a daily basis, so the comment section has been disabled.