Since the politically and culturally turbulent 60s, the word liberation has been incorporated into titles of collectivesremember the radical "Symbionese Liberation Army" and the certainly less violent, but still highly influential "Liberation Orchestra" of bassist Charlie Haden? Even song and album titles from groups as diverse as The Pet Shop Boys and Earth, Wind and Fire have glommed the word for appropriate thematic effect. Perhaps people everywhere just wanna be free, as The Rascals sang back when.
Louisville-based Saxophonist Jacob Duncan's "Liberation Prophecy" ensemble offers up some very interesting out-of-box and envelope-pushing fare in Invisible House. This is a highly eclectic landscape in which Duncan and his cohortsboth vocal and instrumentalsatisfy by offering wildly diverse sonic and rhythmic textures. There's a flavoring of just about every tonal seasoning here with Duncan's obvious compositional influences ranging from late genius Frank Zappa (and Zappa's own Stravinsky-flavored p-p-p-pulses) ("You," "Invisible House") to Mr. Intergalactic, Sun Ra and sorceress Carla Bley. There's even a hint of chorale-introduced Nouveau Country ("Let's Not Pretend").
The ten selections tend to be weighted vocal with Carla Johnson taking hold of the refined lyrics and generating a canyon-wide range of emotion from brooding to joy ("Wish I May"). Johnson's vocal instrumentwhile not similarly enormous in rangebears an uncanny resemblance to the late Minnie Riperton. She's silvery smooth, yet sly and sexy as she twists lyrics with emotional power ("Tip Toe"). The ensembleobviously buying into both the simplicities and complexities emanating from Duncan's penplays with energy and humor. There's limited extended soloing, although trumpeter Kris Eans blows fire on "Tip Toe."
Duncan, a generous leader to his band, demonstrates his fine saxophone chops and gorgeous sound in select spots ("The Lazy Mist"). As composer/arranger and lyricist, he develops and colors his unique ensemble arrangements well, superbly enhancing (and not crushing) the vocal lyric. There's underlying humor and quirkiness here, toosardonic "Killer Clowns"-like laugh-out-loud hoots on "Fortress" for example, and a build-to-a-storming-climax nature portrait on "Nova Vite."
While not attempting to be all things musically liberating, Invisible Houseis certainly an intriguing, highly expressive free-wheelingalmost provocativeartistic effort. That much is very easy for ears to "see."
Track Listing: You; Fortress; Wish I May; Let’s Not Pretend; Invisible House; The Lazy Mist; Tip toe; Death from Above; Consolations; Nova Vite
Personnel: Jacob Duncan: alto saxophone, flute, Rhodes, vocals; Carly Johnson: vocals; Michael Hyman: drums; Craig Wagner: guitars; Chris Fitzgerald: double bass; Steve Good: tenor saxophone,bass clarinet, clarinet; Chris Fortner: trombone; Kris Eans: trumpet;
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.