Written by Hrayr Attarian
Jacob Duncan It’s Alright to Dream
Jacob Duncan – alto saxophone
JD Allen – tenor saxophone
Gabriel Evens – piano
John Goldsby – bass
Mike Hyman – drums
On his fourth release as a leader, the riveting, alto saxophonist interprets seven of his originals with a fiery mix of emotion and imagination. His band includes tenor saxophonist JD Allen whose intensity and aplomb are a great match for Duncan’s furious and vibrant style.
For instance, on “Don't Count the Days” written for the boxer Muhammad Ali, Allen’s bold, sinewy lines weave in and out of the melody with agile spontaneity. In comparison Duncan pours out a poignant flood of passionate notes. Drummer Mike Hyman concludes the tune with a thunderous solo.
Hyman’s restless beats drive the up-tempo and whimsical “Cartoons” dedicated to political cartoonist Thomas Nast. In addition to Allen’s brash, cool tones and Duncan’s sharp, acerbic ones what marks this unique piece is pianist Gabriel Evens’ intelligent extemporization. Evens peppers it with a variety of quotes including some western classical phrases and creates a cohesive and stimulating performance.
Duncan pushes the boundaries of the mainstream on such tracks as “Dear Isadora” inspired by his ancestor, the dancer, Isadora Duncan. Both he and Evens flirt with delightful dissonance without losing sight of the composition’s ardent soulfulness. Duncan’s longtime collaborator bassist John Goldsby takes center stage with a lyrical and breathtakingly nimble improvisation.
The quintet goes further in their exploration of freer sounds on the tense and cinematic “Nached Up”. On it they create thrilling and provocative, four overlapping stream of consciousness monologues that, despite their disparities, coalesce seamlessly back into the main theme.
While firmly rooted in the bop-based jazz tradition Duncan has an adventurous spirit that is in full display on this captivating and uniformly superb album. He has found like-minded artists among his sidemen and together they have created a multilayered work that allows for fresh discoveries with each listen.