Trumpeter Greg Duncan moved from Chicago to Philadelphia in 2020, and the change of environment brought about more than an altered geography. It gave Duncan the chance to forge some creative partnerships with two new ensembles, both of which are found on Sound Duality
. The first, a conventional quartet, utilizes the talents of pianist Tim Brey
, bassist Sam Harris, and drummer Anwar Marshall
, while the other is an organ trio, with Marshall maintaining the drum duties alongside Duncan and organist Lucas Brown
. Differences in style and repertoire are evident in both ensembles, but what they have in common is top-shelf musicianship and Duncan's engaging, lyrical approach to his instrument.
The initial four cuts of Sound Duality
belong to the quartet, and they are excellent. The opener, "Grounded," surges with a restless vitality; it is one of three Duncan compositions on the disc, and it has a memorable head with superb solos from both Duncan and Brey. Another Duncan composition, "Fear Blues," continues in a mid-tempo vein, before Larry Young
's "Obsequious" raises the temperature dramatically, with a tenacious solo from Brey and a scorching one from Duncan. This band swings hard, and the four players clearly feed off each other, giving the music a decidedly live feel at times. Even the comparatively subdued Ronnie Mathews
composition "Jean Marie" conveys a melodic intensity which Duncan harnesses to the fullest. An entire album from this quartet would be more than welcome, especially if it was in front of an audience.
The second half of the album features the organ trio and, while it generally lacks some of the visceral punch of the quartet, it does provide plenty of tuneful moments, courtesy of the sweetness of Duncan's delivery as well as the source material. Stevie Wonder
's "Seems So Long" and "As" are both compelling, with Duncan's lovely solo on the former especially worthy of note, while Brown gets a chance to strut on the groove-heavy treatment of "As." Duncan's "Stuck" holds its own with an insistent pulse which supports the tune's dark-hued melodicism. But the highlight is Joe Henderson
's "Granted," a four-minute burst of fire which reveals all the energy this trio holds in reserve.
The album was conceived and recorded in the midst of personal struggle, as Duncan's wife passed away in 2018. The closing track, Billy Harper
's "If Our Hearts Could Only See," gives him an unaccompanied turn on the piano, and the resulting elegy is heartfelt and poignant, with a gospel-accented second half and a brief nod to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" providing an uplifting finish. Duncan is not afraid to put his emotions front and center in his music, and Sound Duality
is all the better for it.
Grounded; Fear Blues; Obsequious; Jean Marie; Seems So Long; As; Stuck; They Find You; Granted; If Our Hearts
Could Only See.
Greg Duncan: piano (10).
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