Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden’s pristine and bright-eyed collaboration on the 1997 Verve LP Beyond The Missouri Sky (Short Stories) is a decent point of departure for Jacob Duncan’s The Busker, a new solo outing by the Louisvillian alto saxophonist available digitally and on CD. Both recordings have a kind of organic richness, cool complexity and calming Americanness to them, though the current climate in the State of Our Union might, as it all turns out, seem anything but calming these days.
Duncan, who guested on Rachel Grimes’ exquisite The Clearing LP about a year and change ago, is joined by bassist John Goldsby and the guitarist Craig Wagner, who at times seems like he’s angling to steal the show with his pockets of knotted notes and jangly measures. But Duncan remains the real shooting star, with sax leads that seem to suggest their own narratives and short stories, much in the vein of Metheny and Haden stylistically, if not other contemporary jazz outfits like Tin Hat.
The mysterious “Down By Monk’s Pond,” with its rapidly finger picked acoustics underneath soaring wails of sax, is a stand-out, as is the closing “Green Maria,” which takes its time to arrive at its conclusions and sweetens the journey as a result. And Duncan is in top form on tracks like “Warsaw of Ermou,” where his winding refrains match nicely with Wagner’s rhythms and resolutions. The recording can be a little monochromatic but, all in all, Duncan has crafted a solid set to showcase his lungs here.