Thursday, January 22, 2015


Hot Cup Records has announced the release of Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord's newest album Jeremiah on February 10, 2015. This recording is their fifth studio album and comes on the heels of 2014's live double-album release Liverevil, which was named "Wild Card Album of the Year" by Greg Edwards. Like its predecessor, Jeremiah expands the core quintet with the addition of Hot Cup associate Sam Kulik on trombone and frequent collaborator Justin Wood on alto saxophone and flute.

Few groups in jazz today have such a long history of collaboration and musical growth as Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord, and the rapport between the musicians of the core quintet allows affords each member the freedom and security to take musical risks and constantly push the boundaries of group improvisation.  When looking for other musicians to add to the Big Five Chord ensemble, Lundbom consistently chooses improvisers with a long history of personal collaboration.  Sam Kulik attended the Oberlin Conservatory with bassist Moppa Elliott and has performed with members of Big Five Chord for the last ten years, and Justin Wood has been the most frequent sub for the front line players in the quintet since 2009.  As was the case with Matt Kanelos on Liverevil, the new members of Big Five Chord not only fit perfectly into the established aesthetic of the band, but also provide new energy, creativity, and inspiration.

The album is named after the biblical Jeremiah (the "weeping prophet") and the larger idea of a Jeremiad or "long literary which the author bitterly laments the state of society and its morals in a serious tone of sustained invective, and always contains a prophecy of society's imminent downfall" (Wikipedia).  On Jeremiah, Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord expand their musical palate to include everything from open-ended free improvisation to standard practice jazz melodies and harmonies maintaining a core of frenetic collective energy firmly rooted in the jazz-rock tradition.  This recording marks the first time bandleader and guitarist Lundbom has invited other musicians (Kulik and Wood) to arrange material for the band, resulting in an album with a wider emotional range, greater musical variety, and a palpably collaborative spirit.

The album opens with "The Bottle," a quintet composition by Lundbom named after a small town in Alabama, as a nod to bassist Elliott's practice of titling compositions after towns in his native Pennsylvania.  The power and intensity of the longstanding quintet is on full display as is the compositional style Lundbom has honed over the past decade.  The tune begins with a series of passages alternating between written and improvised material over a fragmented figure in the rhythm section before giving way to a guitar solo in which Lundbom combines serpentine chromatic lines with angular chordal clusters over Monaghan and Elliott's constantly shifting interpretation of the written material on the composition's bridge.  The rhythm section returns to the opening figure to support Bryan Murray's balto! solo which exploits the unique characteristics of this bizarre instrument.

"Frog Eye," also named after a small town in Alabama, features the septet performing a Lundbom composition with a haunting initial melody interspersed with short improvised sections before opening up for a soprano saxophone solo by Jon Irabagon.  The horn section provides a transition to a guitar solo in which Lundbom's personal guitar vocabulary is on display.  Few guitarists of his generation have been able to define their playing as personally as Lundbom has and his integration of both the jazz and rock guitar languages is as distinct as it is personal.

The third in his "Alabama" series, "Scratch Ankle" uses written passages to isolate two duo improvisation sections, the first between Bryan Murray on tenor saxophone and Justin Wood on alto, and the second featuring Sam Kulik on trombone and Jon Irabagon on soprano saxophone.

On 2014's Liverevil, Lundbom arranged several compositions based on Wiccan prayer songs that proved to be very compatible with the ensemble's performance style.  For Jeremiah, Lunbom asked both Justin Wood and Sam Kulik to arrange some of these same songs for Big Five Chord.  "First Harvest" is an arrangement by Wood that features a reharmonization of the original melody, beautifully crafted for the septet.  The arranger is the first soloist followed by Bryan Murray on tenor saxophone.  The tonal and blues-based harmonic structure provides an opportunity to hear a new side of the ensemble as they navigate this elegant arrangement.

"Lick Skillet" (AL) opens with an improvised trombone cadenza showcasing Sam Kulik's mastery and control of extended techniques, pacing, and compositional approach. The composition itself is a series of dense chords played by the horns over a jagged, unsettled series of accents by the rhythm section which turn out to be part of a 4/4 swing feel.  This rhythmic figure continues under a flute solo by Justin Wood incorporating a variety of timbral effects and building in intensity

Sam Kulik's Wiccan payer song arrangement takes several melodies and alters their rhythms to fit a single rhythmic sequence which repeats with variations creating layers of contrasting melodies and rhythms as the different layers go in and out of phase.  These composed sections alternate with space for each of the members of the ensemble to improvise in a variety of contexts from unaccompanied to buried under dense ensemble textures.

The album closes with a live recording of "Screamer" performed by the quintet.  When a group of musicians builds a strong rapport over many years, it enables greater risk-taking by each musician.  The energy captured in this recording is wonderful to hear and the ensemble's ability to spontaneously interact places them among the most exciting bands working today.

Formed in 2003, Big Five Chord is the primary vehicle for the music of Austin, TX-based guitarist, composer, and bandleader Jon Lundbom.  Jon's music - described as "Hardbop + Zeppelin + Schoenberg" (Dave Madden, 'SLUG') - is a showcase for his "intense phrasing and mind-altering solo spots" (Glenn Astarita, 'All About Jazz'), a "boundary-shattering shot of adrenaline that screws with your head and messes with your soul" (Jordan Richardson, 'The Seattle PI').  Jon has been called "an idiosyncratic genius harboring boundary-stretching notions in his musical make up" (CJ Bond, ''); "hopefully Lundbom will start getting more attention for his fresh perspective, both as a writer and player" (Mike Shanley, 'ShanleyOnMusic'), "[Jon's playing brings] new ideas to what jazz guitar can be" (Paul Acquaro, 'Free Jazz Blog'); "Big Five Chord, individually and collectively, is one of the most important [ensembles] around today" (Gregory Applegate Edwards, 'Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog'). "Olympic-caliber guitar gymnastics" (Bob Gendron, 'Downbeat'). In addition to Big Five Chord, Lundbom performs with many other groups, most notably Bryan & the Haggards.

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