Esteban Arizpe Castañeda, ‘El Intruso’ 05/31/14

In translation by Kelley Smilkstein…
Jon Lundbom belongs to that category of guitarists that distinguishes itself from the rest by a search much more concerned about expressing ones own voice than in demonstrating versatility. This quality, unfortunately much less common than it should be, means that everything he plays on his instrument has meaning and allows his sound at all times to have the conviction and honesty of someone who appears to be fulfilling a personal desire through his music. The fresh style that characterizes him as a guitarist is reflected with similar clarity in his role as composer, making it appear that labels that are supposedly applicable to the styles presented (those being in broad strokes jazz, rock or fusion) are relegated against a resolve with which he expresses compositionally those that he likes and that identify him in musical terms. And, by the way, these ideas have found a natural and ideal way to be manifested in his band: JL&BVC.

The group that this Chicago-born guitarist leads – and that originally comprised Jon Irabagon on alto sax, Moppa Elliot on bass, Dominic Lalli on tenor sax, and Justin Walke on drums – released its first album in 2003, entitled ‘Big Five Chord.’ Two years later, they released ‘All the Pretty Ponies’ (their first live recording) with Andrew Bain and Bryan Murray replacing Walke and Lalli, respectively. After a brief recess, the band returned to the studio in 2009 to record ‘Accomplish Jazz’ with Danny Fischer on percussion. In 2011 Lundbom’s ensemble released ‘Quavers! Quavers! Quavers!’ with the same group of people. And in 2012 ‘No New Tunes’ incorporated Dan Monaghan in place of Fischer.
Now, JL&BVC returns with the live double disc ‘Liverevil’ (recording during a show at Brooklyn Fire Proof) where the band repeated the same line up as ‘No New Tunes’ but with Matt Kanelos on keyboard. The repertoire alternates between new compositions, a few covers, and tunes from earlier discography specially adapted for a sextet.

The title ‘Liverevil’ makes an obvious reference to the unforgettable 1971 Miles Davis album, ‘Live Evil;’ but it is also an ingenious play on words that allude to the popular saying about the excessive consumption of alcohol: ‘the liver is evil and it must be punished.’

Disc One opens with a new composition: ‘The Difference.’ A half-time bop-jazz piece, round and well-sketched, in which the solo space is given to the principal and guitarist Jon Lundbom and saxophonist Jon Irabagon. Next comes a charming rendition of ‘Tick-Dog’ from the album ‘Accomplish Jazz’ in which, over the wall built by bassist Moppa Elliott and percussionist Dan Monaghan, arises a grand solo from Bryan Murray on balto! sax (an instrument of his own creation combining the alto sax with the mouthpiece of a baritone sax). The first disc concludes with a long, jazz suite based Wiccan prayer songs that includes threes movements, ‘Our Sun’ and two medleys: one comprising ‘Now is the Time’ and ‘The Maypole Dance;’ and the other ‘First Harvest’ and ‘Evening Shadows.’

If you like the first disc, the second one (called the ‘Rock Set’) will be truly devastating from start to finish.

The line-up takes off in this segment with the original ‘Bring Forth the Battalions,” which includes a blazing guitar performance by Jon Lundbom in which, without renouncing his own identity, he proves himself to be somewhere between Marc Ducret and Sonny Sharrock with a pinch of John Scofield. Next comes the hypnotic groove of ‘On Jacation’ from the 2011 album ‘Quavers! Quavers! Quavers! Quavers!’ (one of my favorites in the band’s repertoire); the intricate funk of ‘These Changes’ (with an invaluable contribution from Matt Kanelos on keyboard); the inspired cover of ‘North Star’ from the Candadian indie-rock band The Rural Alberta Adventage (in which Jon Irabagon brings it with a solo on the alto sax); and the closing number, the eccentric rock circus that is ‘Have You Ever Seen a Woman as Big as Martha?’ from the band’s 2003 debut album.

JL&BVC, with ‘Liverevil,’ reaches its peak in its evolution as a band and ratifies the talent and true creativity of its leader.

Highly recommended.