The Innkeeper's Gun, the latest CD released by bassist John Goldsby on the Bass Lion Label with Jacob Duncan on alto saxophone and JasonTiemann on drums is a solid demonstration of the power trio in jazz. "...carrying on the tradition of Ornette Coleman and Sonny Rollins, while expanding the trio style and adding our own voices to the music" is how Goldsby describes what they are doing on this CD. What I hear is that and more! Some extremely tight executions of some difficult compositions that deliver musicality, and a technicality that is refreshing. It saddens me to think that Goldsby is another US born expat that is finding his greater reward in jazz overseas. But that being said, the music is global and regardless of where it originates, it is available where you are at. That is a good thing in regards to "The Innkeeper's Gun" because you will want it, wherever you are at.
The opening cut features a pulsing groove that quickly gets stuck in your head. Entitled Jim Henson it immediately harkens the late Muppet-master and some of the characters he created. Lumbering into a chaotic state of cool. The combination of Goldsby's bass ostinato and Duncan's haunting alto work builds to a crescendo of creativity. Goldsby delivers the first of many deeply emotional bass solos on this cut, a harbinger of things to come. Marching into the next cut, "Ligeti Split", another Duncan composition that starts with a really nice drum solo by Tiemann. The song launches into it's body with a well executed time study by Duncan and Tiemann, that folds nicely into close interplay by Duncan and Goldsby. The cut screams off in a quick tempo treatment of the melody and changes. Solo work by Duncan here is notable in that he gives a full range of dynamics in this piece. Goldsby delivers another melodic solo.
The cover of Lady Gaga's Paparazzi was a surprise, I have never heard the soulfulness of that melody until Goldsby and Duncan got a hold of it. They wring out the real irony in that composition. The constrained funk, held tightly just under the surface of the groove, it is nicely done. Goldsby's solo further expresses the deep funk groove underlying that tune. You actually miss that in the overproduced versions by Gaga herself. My compliments to the trio for showing me this song in a new light. Reminds me of when Miles got his hands on Cindi Lauper's Time After Time, added a whole new dimension to my appreciation for that song. Duncan rips it up with his solo, expanding the melody and stretching it out in every direction.
"More Than Something" is a great example of Goldsby's skill at bowing the bass. After all, he has written a book about it! He shows why he is considered a master at it. The utilization of that technique in "More Than Something" sets up the mellow tones of the song and puts a smooth foundation under the cut that Duncan layers some really sweet alto tones over. Midway through when this song starts to find its own, you get the real sense of the interplay of these musicians in this trio format. The result is a tightly knit fabric that stands up to some real self-expression by the players and still delivers a whole concept with precision and satisfaction.
The title cut, "The Innkeeper's Gun" has a really interesting groove for an introduction. Here Tiemann shows his contribution to the trio in both a rhythm mode and the musicality of his drumming style. He fits right in, expressing time and dynamics with a real sensitivity to the melody. He is truely present in this song. Each rim shot, roll and cymbal strike is in the right place. Duncan takes the timing, the groove and just amplifies the tempo with solid solo work. The notes of Goldsby's bass, along with the drum heads and the alto all blend to provide a forceful, full driving theme that moves up and down with the dynamic expressed by the trio.
"Never Come Back To Me" starts to really define the trio to be what I consider a single entity. They fully express the intent of this composition by Goldsby. Duncan rides the rhythms of Goldsby and Tiemann to a hard-boping jaunt on this cut. When Goldsby pulls out the bow again on this tune, it is with the heat of a fully burning fire, and the deep soulful notes are a fuller expression of the piece. The power of the bass when expressed with a bow like that is really a wonderful thing. It makes you wonder why more bassists don't use that technique more often.
"Neda" is a marginally longish ballad of sorts. Listening the main theme and the strains of the alto as it expresses it in the early measures sets the tone for a pensive listen. This deep emotioin and expressiveness is further embellished by Goldsby with the bass and his clear and intense solo accompanied by Tiemann's brush work. This cut, while one of the mildest is one of my favorites by the trio.
The final cut on the CD is another example of the musicality of the trio and the tightness in which they deliver that musicality. A really hot number composed by Goldsby provides the players with an excellent framework for self expression within the simple melody of the central composition. By now the formular of sax, bass, drums and sax has been established and the fact that they come and go so seamlessly is what makes "The Innkeeper's Gun" a trio CD worthy of a listen. This group is talented, tight and totally in the pocket with each other. Great compositions executed by skilled musicians that makes the listening experience a worthwhile one. Goldsby, Duncan and Tiemann are carrying on that tradition of the power jazz trio and "The Innkeeper's Gun" is clear evidence that they are successful in doing so.