It makes sense that Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! kicks off with a big, chunky rock groove and a pile of instruments fighting for position. This is Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord, after all, and things get out of hand in a hurry when these cats are blasting away.
Out now on Hot Cup Records, Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! is a boundary-shattering shot of adrenaline that screws with your head and messes with your soul. Lundbom (guitars), Jon Irabagon (alto saxophone), Bryan Murray (tenor saxophone), Moppa Elliot (bass), and Danny Fischer (drums) reconfigure what you think you know about jazz and dump the entrails overboard.
Some of the music here is downright funky, but some of it is as ugly as sin. It pays to pay attention, of course, as the players don’t allow for much space between the deformed and the sweet. Things can swing back in the other direction faster than you can say Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! Quavers!
Formed in ’03, Big Five Chord is “the primary vehicle for the music of New York City-based guitarist and composer Jon Lundbom.” More than that, it’s a maddening catharsis. It releases all of the pent-up “properness” of the jazz scene, that bit of bullshit that sinks discussion of the art form to the very pretentious and the very boring, and resurrects the bones of truly free music to come up and play with the rest of us schlubs.
Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! comes with influences like Eric Dolphy, John Scofield, John Cage, Bela Bartók, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Led Zeppelin, whatever. It’s all jammed into this wonky, crazy package.
Take that big, chunky rock groove on the opening track, for instance. “On Jacation” sits and swings with it for a while and the horns almost messily spar with each other. Elliot grounds it, but barely, and Lundbom cuts like acid into the mix. Guitar pieces come slicing in and the effect, jarring yet elegant, is mind-opening.
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t free jazz. As much liberty and open space there is wobbling around in these compositions, these players are very much in tune with one another. Maybe it’s organized chaos; maybe it’s something a lot less clichéd than that. Whatever’s cooking, Big Five Chord’s musicians work as a collaborative unit having a conversation. It’s just that the conversation is extremely lively and, sometimes, batshit insane.
Cooler heads prevail on cuts like “The Bravest Little Pilot No. 2” and “New Feats of Horsemanship,” but for the most part Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! is a wild ride.
For those tired of the same old reliable jazz music, this here’s the cure. Lundbom and Big Five Chord fearlessly fiddle with the program, creating magic that is grating and gratifying in one solid, jubilant package.
This was originally published as Music Review: Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord – Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! at Blogcritics.org