Duncan Eagles, perhaps best known as the tenor saxophonist in Partikel, is also in high demand as a sideman to high fliers including Zara McFarlane, Shabaka Hutchings, Janek Gwizdala, Gary Husband and Ola Onabule. Recorded with minimal editing and featuring seven original compositions, Narrations, is his second album as leader, following on from Citizen (Ropeadope, 2019). He explores a wide range of musical styles and states: "This is a collection of individual pieces that stand together which is how the album title came about. It's a collection of individual stories."
He is joined by fellow Partikel member, Max Luthert, on bass and Polish pianist Tomasz Bura. Portuguese drummer Zoe Pascal completes the quartet. This combination of players gives an interesting balance to the narrative bends in the compositions. As Eagles explains, "I wanted to write music that pulls the listener into the music, like the experience when reading a book."
Eagles' assured and commanding playing captures immediate attention on the opening track, "Grove Park." Eagles and then Bura improvise, as Pascal and Luthert build up furious rhythms before Eagles returns to re-state the theme. "Elden" starts as a moody composition but leads to a lyrical piano break over washes from Pascal's cymbals. The rhythm then diverges as Eagles' sax builds in controlled intensity. Eagles' post-bop playing could be described as Michael Brecker-like. He enjoys some of his best moments on "Surbiton." His rounded tone is relaxed over the many rhythmic forms. A piano break and a bass solo feature before the main theme returns. The track seems to end there but then surprisingly drifts in free fashion.
Bura's piano leads us into the ballad, "Local Hero." All the musicians create a sense of space for Eagles' confident and melodic playing. "Severance" features another commanding theme statement from Eagles, with Pascal all energy behind the drums, shifting the rhythmic drives and grooves. Bura plays repetitive chords and then the track drifts, seemingly with little direction, before Eagles returns. The calm ballad, "Rosebush," finds all the band at the top of their game and showing great control and emotion. "The Bakehouse" is a real workout and rounds off the album with bustling time signatures and fast flights of sax conversing with imaginative piano playing.
Eagles plays with a full tone, dry, controlled and melodic throughout. The ballads are both supple and sensitive. There are strong themes in each tune and Luthert and Pascal relentlessly build an array of fresh grooves and textures to compliment each track. The minimal editing may have been too minimal, but we are talking small margins. Narrations is an accomplished album of versatile, open and appealing contemporary jazz that is well worth hearing.
Grove Park; Elden; Suburbiton; Local Hero; Severance; Rosebush; The Bakehouse.
All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.
WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.