The Busker

“Travelers know that part of the adventure in their wanderings is encountering the inconsistent. Cultures, opinions, and outlooks often create a beautiful mess which keeps the traveler in a state of flux. Among the few constants, from Beirut to Bangkok, the subways of New York City to the former red light district of Amsterdam, are the omnipresent buskers, who with varying degrees of depth and dexterity, add harmony and melody to our lives, open instrument case at their sides containing their meager wages from the day.

Jazz saxophonist Jacob Duncan was one among many buskers gigging outside of the Metro stations and town plazas of Europe, honing his craft in front of impromptu audiences. Duncan, late of Liberation Prophecy, which featured singer Norah Jones on their Last Exit Angel release, is known for smoothly transitioning between the lines of atonal abstract jazz and a soulful, blues-based sound. On The Busker, Duncan reminisces musically about his days as an itinerate musician, although the quality here is much higher than one would find among many of his fellow street colleagues.

Ably assisted by Craig Wagner on acoustic guitar and John Goldsby on bass, Duncan has produced an inspired album rooted in European jazz sensibilities, similar to the work of ECM artist Jan Garbarek, who also blurs the lines of abstractionism and a more accessible sound. Much like Garbarek and other European artists, Duncan’s trio has chosen a blank canvas upon which to paint their masterful tones, minimalist in instrumentation yet boldly creative in execution.

What separates The Busker from other works like it are the delicacies upon the palate from which the trio draw from. Duncan’s sax work is full and fluid, each run on the keys like the taste of fine wine that lingers after a swish and swallow. Wagner’s guitar is a transporter of sorts, taking the listener from the ancient high streets of Barcelona to the Mississippi Delta and back. Goldsby supports with his deep acoustic bass, providing primer to seal the atmosphere upon which both Duncan and Wagner can apply their textured rhythms.

For those that appreciate the jazz form who haven’t traveled nor experienced the often surprising delight of finding a busker or two in their meanderings, you are especially urged to listen to The Busker. The album is more than just a reminiscence of Duncan’s bygone days. It is a tribute to the improvisational nature of jazz, of spontaneity, and of finding diamonds in the rough, as so many buskers are. Duncan, Wagner and Goldsby deliver a fine work in the collective spirit in an industry that too often spotlights the work of one- a practice that works against the ethics of buskers everywhere.” -Larry Sakin