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, 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 of all different cultural styles, 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.
Duncan traveled far and wide, from Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands, to Ushuaia, Argentina (Tierra Del Fuego), to Southeast Asia—Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore, and to numerous ports of call in New Zealand. Finally, he returned to his own Louisville, Kentucky, “home of Muhammad Ali and Hunter S. Thompson,” as he proudly points out.
Since his homecoming, Duncan’s recorded two Liberation Prophecy albums, become a father to an incredible boy, met many amazing musicians and artists, created a children’s web-series called, “Liberation Living Room”, and developed great friendships. He makes music and collaborates with scores of creative musicians, including Chris Fortner, Mike Hyman, Carly Johnson, Todd Hildreth, Steve Snyder, Craig Wagner, Rachel Grimes, Jason Tiemann, Will Oldham, John Goldsby, Dick Sisto, Teddy Abrams, Pavel Wlosok, Chris Fitzgerald among others, as well as many artists from the visual, movement, and writing art forms.
He’s also had the pleasure of playing or recording many of his own projects, as well as everyone from Aretha Franklin, Norah Jones, Debbie Boone, the Violent Femmes, The Louisville Orchestra, to Will Oldham, Ben Sollee, Rachel Grimes, Helen Money, and the list goes on. Louisville’s thriving arts scene, with its wealth of kindred spirits invested in the continuity of human expression, is the ideal home court for Jacob Duncan’s crucible of creativity.