Yes, the British are coming! Here is another in the growing line of UK jazz musicians being signed to a U.S. label; in this case, the progressive Ropeadope label, home to artists like Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and Logan Richardson. This is Duncan Eagles’ debut as a leader apart from his UK group Partikel, a trio specializing in improvised music. This is his fifth studio album and was recorded at London’s Abbey Road studios. Supporting Duncan Eagles are London-based musicians David Preston (guitar), Matt Robinson (piano), Max Luthert (bass) and Dave Hamblett (drums).
Eagles is a classically trained pianist who discovered the saxophone at age 16, inspired by the music of John Coltrane and especially his album Blue Train, which in turn led to Miles, Blakey Shorter, et. al. Duncan started performing around London in his late teens and enrolled at Trinity College of Music. He was drawn to composing right away and linked up with like-minded musicians he met on the southwest London club scene, landing a steady Monday night residency at London’s award-winning jazz club The Hideaway, where he runs a workshop, followed by a jam session. Duncan is also a tutor on the Dordogne International Jazz Summer School. This session has been a regular fixture on the London jazz scene since 2010, attracting younger aspiring musicians as well as established professionals.
The music on Citizen is somewhat like the work the late Michael Brecker did with Pat Metheny in a similar quintet configuration on Tales from the Hudson, and to a lesser extent Weather Report due to Eagles’ Shorter-like lyrical style, or early Logan Richardson. On cuts where the piano as especially strong like “Folk Fong” and “Cascade” the sound is like fellow Ropeadope artist, pianist/composer Mark de Clive-Lowe who released his own fine Heritage just last week. Eagles, however, though favoring the tenor, also plays the alto and soprano. His music is highly accessible, melodic, free-flowing and personal, even spiritual (“Midnight Mass”) and less improvisational than much of his work with Partikel. It’s a mix of acoustic and electric instruments, with many changes, that run from contemplative pauses to frenzied, syncopated passages. There’s no doubt that Eagles is a talented composer.
Throughout his career so far, Eagles has appeared at many major venues and festivals around the world including Ronnie Scotts, Pizza Express Jazz Club (Soho), Cheltenham International Jazz Festival, Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Istanbul Jazz Festival, EFG London Jazz Festival, Moods Jazz Club (Zurich), Wuhan Jazz Fest (China), The Kings Place, Brecon Jazz Festival, Love Supreme Jazz Festival and The Paris Cat (Melbourne). As an in-demand sideman, Duncan has performed with some of the top names and bands including Gary Husband, Zara McFarlane, Melt Yourself Down, Mark Mondesir, Ola Onabule and Janek Gwizdala to name a few. The Ropeadope signing and this recording should give him exposure to U.S. Jazz enthusiasts.
Keep in mind that Duncan has already achieved notable success with Partikel, recognized as the Daily Telegraph’s best albums of 2015. In 2017 they were nominated for a parliamentary jazz award in the category of “Best Jazz Ensemble.” Duncan Eagles is forging a new path and is likely on the road to even more success as the wave of London Jazz is swelling, signaling another British Invasion, this time in the jazz genre.