Jon Lundbom
  • Bryan Murray
  • Jon Lundbom

Sometimes I feel embarrassed when I discover musicians who once lived, studied, and worked in Chicago only long after they’ve split town. Last week Irish composer Jennifer Walshe played in town with Tony Conrad, but years ago, when she was studying at Northwestern and performing around town, I was oblivious to her presence. Same goes for saxophonist Jon Irabagon, trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, and composer Michael Pisaro. Guitarist Jon Lundbom, who was born in Arlington Heights and studied music at DePaul, is the latest former Chicagoan I’ve learned about late. By scouring the Reader‘s old music listings I figured out that he’d once held down a weekly gig with drummer Corey Radford at Phyllis’ Musical Inn. After more than a decade in Brooklyn, he recently decamped to Austin, Texas, but apparently he’ll continue leading his long-running New York ensemble Big Five Chord from there.

Jeremiah (Hot Cup) is the latest in a series of impressive albums he’s made with that band, which has included Irabagon and bassist Moppa Elliott (both charter members of Mostly Other People Do the Killing), reedist Bryan Murray (leader of Bryan Murray & the Haggards), and drummer Dan Monaghan. On some of the tracks, the band expands to a septet with reedist Justin Wood and trombonist Sam Kulik, each of whom contributed an arrangement. The band has never privileged any particular style, though I suppose it all revolves loosely around postbop. There’s no shortage of jazz guitarists these days, and Lundbom’s generation tends to reflect one of several influences: Bill Frisell, John Scofield, or Kurt Rosenwinkel. Lundbom pretty much steers clear of those antecedents, though—instead I occasionally notice traces of more idiosyncratic players such as Joe Morris or James “Blood” Ulmer, albeit in a relatively swing-driven context.

Below you can listen to the album’s opening cut, “The Bottle,” where the slightly rheumy melody reminds me of something that Steve Lacy might’ve composed—a feeling no doubt enhanced by Irabagon’s soprano saxophone sound. The playing and the arrangement are both more extroverted than Lacy preferred, though, reflecting the underlying rock energy of the recording. Lundbom’s searching solo has a nice harmonic ambiguity, drifting through the rugged groove with almost staggering force. But in general he opts for a clean tone, which contrasts with some of the more outgoing upper-register improvising from the reedists—especially Murray, who generates a genuinely rude sound with his “balto!” saxophone, an alto fitted with a baritone mouthpiece and a plastic reed. At its best the group delivers a raucous stream of energy characterized by knotty multilinear improvising; rambunctious solos coalesce and scrap with one another on “Scratch Ankle,” but the restrained feel of the ballad “First Harvest” is just as satisfying, with an excellent solo by Wood and warm lines from Kulik.

Today’s playlist:

Micah Blue Smaldone, The Ring of the Rise (Immune)
Zanussi Thirteen, Live (Moserobie)
Uri Caine, Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (Winter & Winter)
Various artists, Excavated Shellac: Strings (Parlortone)
Max Neuhaus, Electronics & Percussion: Five Realizations by Max Neuhaus (Sony Classical, Japan)