Jazz musicians derive inspiration from all kinds of sourcesbut there probably aren't many who are inclined to build an entire series of songs around concepts connected to Jungian psychology. Trumpeter and composer Greg Duncan is quite earnest in this endeavor, however, and on this release he gives musical expression to a number of aspects of Carl Jung's theory of "individuation": the process by which human beings must unify the conscious and subconscious aspects of the self (hence the title of the album) in order to become fully realized as people. Although this is pretty cerebral stuff for a jazz record, one needn't delve into the esoterica of early analytical psychology in order to appreciate what is in fact a fine album of mostly up-tempo, straight-ahead jazz, handled adroitly by Duncan's Individuation Quintet, a group he's headed since 2014.
With an airtight rhythm section comprised of pianist Benjamin Lewis, bassist Joel Kelsey and drummer Xavier Breaker, Duncan's got the perfect resource to execute crafty compositions that frequently involve changing time signatures and complex themes. Case in point is a track like "Constellated," which begins with an easygoing 3/4 groove that builds in intensity by moving into a 5/4 section that catalyzes a spirit of excitement and propulsive energy. And the rhythm section is always moving: listen to the fine comping on the horn solos during "Anima," where Lewis's feisty chords, Kelsey's lockdown bass lines and Breaker's creative interjections on the kit offer trustworthy support for Duncan and tenor saxophonist Doug Rosenberg. They're also rhythmically flexible enough to accommodate Duncan's Latin-inflected ideas, something one can hear a bit of on pieces like "Out on a Limb" or "Shadow Side," and a lot of on "Thinking Light," a winsome samba track.
Both horn players possess strong voices, with Duncan and Rosenberg especially compelling when soloing in tandem, which they do quite skillfully on "Anima," where they echo and respond to each other's lines engagingly. Duncan's solo on "Path of Light and Darkness" is a thoughtful display of precision combined with lyrical resonance, bringing Kenny Wheeler to mind in the process. And on the album's closer, Branford Marsalis's "Say Hey," the whole band uses that blues-based composition for an opportunity to turn it loose for a while.
Despite the seriousness of the record's concept (and Duncan, to his credit, is donating half of all proceeds from the release to Mental Health America), there's no denying these guys' ability to produce some first-rate jazz that is quite enjoyable, and very nicely played as well.
Intro. To The Subconscious; Out On A Limb; Constellated; Anima; Red’s Song;
Shadow Side; Path Of Light And Darkness; Thinking Light; Say Hey.
Greg Duncan: trumpet, flugelhorn; Doug Rosenberg: tenor saxophone; Ben
Lewis: piano; Xavier Breaker: drums; Joel Kelsey: bass.
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