Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kevin Eubanks: Zen Food

Mack Avenue Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Zen Food

Those not familiar with guitarist Kevin Eubanks must not have watched Jay Leno’s Tonight Show; Eubanks was a member -- then music director -- of the “house” band for more than 18 years. And for the 15 years prior to that, he played and toured with numerous jazz artists, including Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes and Ron Carter.

Eubanks was born to be a musician: His mother is a pianist with a master’s degree; blues pianist Ray Bryant is an uncle; and brothers Robin (trombone) and Duane (trumpet) are well known. Initially, Eubanks was most influenced by fusion and progressive rock, but his association with Leno’s show – and the numerous guests -- exposed him to every style possible.

Zen Food is his debut album for Mack Avenue Records, but he has a prolific discography with other labels, going back to 1980. While featured on The Tonight Show, Eubanks and his band also worked regular Wednesday night gigs at the Baked Potato in North Hollywood. The quintet on this release -- guitar, sax, keyboards, bass and drums -- worked out the tunes for this release at that weekly job.
Their style isn’t traditional jazz; it reflects Eubanks’ early fusion and rock influence, but remains tasteful and thoughtful. The artists’ long-time association is evident; the arrangements are tight, and both the ensemble and solo work are excellent. Best of all, everything swings nicely.

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