Released next month I have been listening today to Citizen by the virtuosic Partikel saxophonist Duncan Eagles who opens for Joshua Redman at the Barbican on 18 February. US fans via his new label Ropeadope will probably get to know Eagles for the first time and he is a talented player who first came to notice jamming in Streatham club Hideaway at the beginning of the 2010s.
A sober studio affair on which Eagles is joined by guitarist David Preston, pianist Matt Robinson, Eagles’ erstwhile Partikel bandmate bassist Max Luthert, and drummer Dave Hamblett, the style falls in a no man’s land. Compositionally strong, although the writing is oblique, the title track which opens proceedings has good cohesion and interplay between the solo line passages and the rhythm section underneath, and its bustling momentum displays a lot of energy. It is pretty earnest stuff and a little dry, though! On the plus side, however, the tracks that follow offer plenty to admire and the album is beautifully recorded, a soft texture to the listening sheen has somehow been fashioned by the engineers, a harsh abrasive listen this certainly is not.
Luthert leads off ‘Conquistador’ which again shows how well the bass has been recorded but there is an airy spaciousness here rather than a spiritual glow to the style which sucks the momentum out of the record and it is pretty short on really strong melody lines which is slightly frustrating given that the album is pretty melodic at least in inclination. ‘Shimmer’ with its accessible style comes closer and the airy ‘Folk Song’ is even more direct but Preston’s role is overcooked and the tune really didn’t grab me that much but I think it probably will work better live and turn into a bigger feature.
The track certainly has more drama to it than most of the other numbers. ‘Taxco’ is the sort of track you will hear Swiss trio Vein tackle and certainly there is a maturity here that can be a scarce commodity when you hear a lot of party-jazz bands out there just relying on groove and quirky effects to get the crowd going. Citizen is not that kind of record. There is a lot of improvising content and again live I am sure this will be even more evident. Certainly as a muso band Eagles has cracked it but to civilian listeners will his appeal be as strong? SG