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Jacob Duncan: Invisible House

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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Since the politically and culturally turbulent 60s, the word liberation has been incorporated into titles of collectives—remember 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 cohorts—both vocal and instrumental—satisfy 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 instrument—while not similarly enormous in range—bears 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 ensemble—obviously buying into both the simplicities and complexities emanating from Duncan's pen—plays 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, too—sardonic "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-wheeling—almost provocative—artistic 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;

Title: Invisible House | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced

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