Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord

Harder on the Outside
Hot Cup Records 181

Combining improvisational smarts with rhythmic grooves, guitarist Jon Lundbom and his New York-based Big Five Chord (BFC) have churned out another set of tracks that you can play for your Rock, Roots and Metal loving friends without aggravating pure Jazz associates. That’s because beneath the appropriate foot-tapping bombast are finely honed concepts.

Assisted by band members who have worked with everyone from Randy Brecker to David Byrne, BFC inhabit the vortex where Albeert Ayler and Link Wray may have found common ground. At the same time while the guitarist can shred and splinter frails with the best, he also exhibits easygoing chromatic picking when needed. Saxophonists Justin Wood, who plays alto and soprano and Bryan Murray who plays tenor and balto! (sic) are involved in intricate contrapuntal strategies when not honking and shronking. Moppa Elliot’s thick double-bass thwacks propel the beat while drummer Dan Monaghan shades the tunes with rim shots and bounces as much as his rugged smacks drive them.

Take a track like “Prednisone” for instance which appears to be basic Blues-Rock driven by a back beat. Instead after Murray’s distinctively quivery trills, a guitar rave-up includes chiming chromatics along with fuzzy drones and straight picking. Bouncy intonation via harmonized horns and drum slaps propel “Cereal” towards popping string fills from Lundbom until sweet soprano saxophone licks slickly draw together variables for a quintet-bonding exit. Additionally while Elliott’s resonant thumping plus Murray’s blustery snarls on “Booberonic” threaten to shuffle BFC into a “Harlem Nocturne”-like morass sophisticated knob twisting and chord substitution moves track from 1939 to 2019. Meanwhile, the extended “Basic Bitches” shows all players to their best advantage. Slapping rim shots, and heavy double bass slaps introduce broken chord saxophone licks that eventually explode into sharp sneezes and gravelly snorts before crammed guitar twangs corrals the narrative into a reflective stop-rime feel.

Feel good sounds don’t have to simple. And that observation applies as much to Harder on the Outside as any of BFC’s previous discs.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. People Be Talking 2. Basic Bitches 3. Prednisone 4. Booberonic 5. Cereal 6. Fussing Blues 7. Three Plus 8. Basic Bitches (Alt.)

Personnel: Justin Wood (alto and soprano saxophones); Bryan Murray (tenor and balto! saxophones); Jon Lundbom (guitar); Moppa Elliott (bass) and Dan Monaghan (drums)