• Jonathan Widran

ADRIANNE DUNCAN, Gemini

The first thing to mention when thinking of ways to praise vocalist, songwriter and pianist extraordinaire Adrianne Duncan's deeply heartfelt, emotionally cathartic and often blissfully whimsical Gemini is the fact that for a debut project, she goes all out.

Rather than play things safe as one might expect of an emerging artist trying to gain a toehold in the jazz world, she boldly stretches her three impactful original poignant and wistful narrative songs (“He’s Not Quite You,” “Elijah,” “Home At Last”) to nine minutes to most effectively convey the full emotional thrust of her stories and allow her incredible ensemble (bassist Dan Lutz, drummer Jimmy Branley, vibraphonist Nick Mancini, clarinetist John Tegmeyer and flutist/saxophonist Katisse Buckingham) space to enhance her emotional storytelling with subtle grace and harmony and then wild, unbridled improvisational runs.


The streaming services offer an alternate release of Gemini (entitled Gemini Radio Edits) for promotion and airplay’s sake, but you should listen to the original versions to get the full impact of her extraordinary artistry as a singer who balances subtlety and dramatic flair, and songwriter who takes her sweet time to unfold a story and build tension to a sense of empowering emotional release. The Gemini concept applies not only to the unique duality she brings as a pianist and singer – the title track is a full-on, hard grooving instrumental and showcase for Buckingham’s otherworldly flute virtuosity - but to the way the can switch tempos quickly as a way to take us along the journey.


Duncan also brings her intuitive, jazzy sense of stagecraft to create a low key then vocally soaring swirl through Sting’s iconic “Roxanne” – definitely one of the most unforgettable Police jazz re-imaginings ever. She accomplishes so much in only a few tracks that learning later that she was classically trained, into musical theater and nurtured early on as a fiction and screenwriter comes as no surprise. Gemini is truly one of the most ambitious and fascinating contemporary jazz albums of the year!