Bassist John Goldsby’s trio with alto saxophonist Jacob Duncan and drummer Jason Tiemann has been together for a few years. The Innkeeper’s Gun is the group’s studio debut and its second release overall, following a live album from 2008.
I think Duncan’s alto sax work is likely to be an acquired taste. He’s not a particularly speedy player, working his way through melody lines with patience and deliberation, and Goldsby and Tiemann mostly follow his lead. At times, like on “Ligeti Split,” they briefly speed up in an Ornette Coleman-ish fashion, but then things slow down again and abandon smooth swing for a sort of lurching rhythm that’s interesting, but also makes it difficult for the listener to just settle in and let the music course by. The disc’s third track, though, is excellent—it’s a version of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” and the way Duncan skips through the melody before commencing extrapolations reminds me of Sonny Rollins; it’s an excellent performance.
Goldsby is a powerful bassist, plucking the strings with terrific force while always remaining utterly in tune and becoming a co-lead voice. Tiemann’s drumming is fairly minimalist, rarely erupting into complex fills or anything indulgent. Even on “Paparazzi,” which given its origins as a pop song would seem to offer a golden opportunity for hammering at the kit, he mostly maintains a light touch not unlike the work of Kaspar Rast, drummer for Nik Bärtsch’s spidery Swiss jazz-funk group Ronin. That’s not to say he’s an absentee, or even a mere timekeeper; far from it. As The Innkeeper’s Gun goes on, Tiemann’s aggression seems to build. On the title track, for example, he’s doing much more than Duncan to keep the listener on the edge of his or her seat, while Goldsby stays in the back and lets him have at it.
Taken as a whole, The Innkeeper’s Gun is an exciting, involving post-bop album. It would have been nice to hear a second horn sometimes, as Duncan’s alto has a tendency to get a little shrill at times (though never as piercing as Ornette). But the boppish, swinging rhythms—and that version of “Paparazzi”—make it a definite winner.
1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? Yep.
2. Should you buy this record? I think so.
Link to purchase, if you’re so inclined…