1. Jim Henson
2. Ligeti Split
4. More Than Something
5. The Innkeeper's Gun
6. Never Come Back to Me
8. Juan in the Basement
Jacob Duncan - Alto sax
John Goldsby - Double bass
Jason Tiemann - Drums
You may not have heard of John Goldsby but you probably should have, as he has played for such people as Abdullah Ibrahim, Patti Austin, Peter Erskine and Michael Brecker. He is an American bassist who emigrated in 1994 to Germany, where he plays in Cologne's Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) Big Band.
I used to love a short-lived British trio called Back Door, which comprised saxist Ron Aspery, guitarist Colin Hodgkinson and drummer Tony Hicks. They punched out an exciting mix of jazz, blues and rock, and often managed to sound like a big band even though there were only three of them.
John Goldsby's trio reminds me of Back Door in that it mixes a variety of styles to create satisfying but often demanding music. The line-up is also reminiscent of Ornette Coleman's trio and some of Goldsby's jazz is close to Ornette, mixing freedom with organisation. All the compositions except one are by Goldsby or his altoist, Jacob Duncan. The exception is Paparazzi, written by the modestly-attired Lady Gaga. This illustrates the trio's strengths: John Goldsby's firm double bass (which is recorded with unusual clarity), Jacob Duncan's swaggering yet sensitive alto, and Jason Tiemann's atmospheric drumming.
Although much of the music is rollickingly free, it is still disciplined - and you can sense the three musicians listening closely to one another. They know the value of restraint and they avoid the continuous thrash which makes so much "free" jazz unbearably tiresome. This restraint is audible in a piece like Goldsby's More Than Something, which makes an impression without using excess.
Other pieces of particular interest are the opening Jim Henson,
whose staggering rhythm is presumably a homage to the creator of the
Muppets. Ligeti Split contains some awesome sax from Jacob
Duncan, exploring the heights and depths of the instrument. Never
Come Back to Me is probably the closest the trio gets to the sound
and style of Ornette Coleman. The Latin-flavoured Juan in the Basement
includes more startling alto gymnastics from Duncan and a good bass
solo from Goldsby, with Tiemann's drums coming in more and more assertively.
This trio seems to be very much following the same path as The Bad
Plus or Medeski, Martin & Wood - bringing a new approach to jazz
which doesn't forget its primitive roots. And the recording quality
is first-class, enabling you to hear each musician clearly, without
any one voice dominating. But don't buy this album unless you are
prepared for some surprises.