Jacob Duncan’s musical path has been a fascinating one, consistently balancing a spiritual, intuitive inclination with a keen, educated intelligence. Band leader, composer, arranger and force of nature saxophonist, Duncan’s ensemble playing is as empathetically assured as his soloing is riskily rewarding. Beginning on alto sax at age eleven, the Louisville, Kentucky native soon distinguished himself as the kid who could play. He graduated from the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy, played lead alto in the Yamaha Big Band in high school, and won a music scholarship to the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, where he was a member of the world-renowned One O’Clock Lab Band, Little Jack Melody and his Young Turks, and other stimulating outlets, including his own Liberation Prophecy.
After graduation and reading “way too much beat literature,” Duncan flew to Lisbon on a one-way ticket with alto in tow, $500, and very little else. Playing on street corners, French jazz clubs, hanging with musicians, hitchhiking, or enjoying a peripatetic existence based upon the proverbial “kindness of strangers,” he survived and thrived in Europe.
On returning to the States, the siren call of New York got the better of him and he settled there for a time; a day gig at a coffee house kept him afloat while he played countless sessions, gigged endlessly at Nimrod’s and the Knitting Factory, and reassembled Liberation Prophecy as a sextet. Eventually frustrated by stress, rehearsal conflicts, and a steady diet of ramen noodles and bad poetry, a cruise ship tour of duty seemed like a solution.