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In the expanding CIMP canon piano recordings are comparatively small in number. The cramped size and nature of the Spirit Room makes the presence of a piano problematic. To accommodate the small number of sessions where the instrument is essential Bob Rusch commonly rents space in a nearby recital hall. The change of locale necessarily creates a challenge for engineer Marc Rusch and this solo program by Charles Eubanks stands as no exception. Fortunately the younger Rusch brings his studio savvy to bear and surmounts any difficulties through a true to life reproduction of sound that is often stunning in its clarity.
Eubanks belongs to an illustrious dynasty that also counts trombonist Robin and guitarist Kevin as familial links. But like so many in the CIMP family of artists his substantial talents have been granted little reprieve from obscurity with recording opportunities few and far between. This recording points emphatically to the travesty of this oversight. A dozen tracks in just over seventy minutes fully disclose the Eubanks as a pianist of able to blend a comprehensive understanding of the keyboard with a fertile and far-roaming imagination. Finding musicians with one or the other of these traits is quite common, but a sympathetic integration of the two is by contrast quite rare. In his portion of the liner notes Eubanks reflects on a reality often glossed over by listener and critic alike. Unlike most other instrumentalists pianists cannot carry their instruments with them from gig to gig. A seemingly obvious point, but the permutations of such a situation are more myriad in scope and resonance. As Eubanks elaborates, each session whether it be live or studio away from home is a process akin to meeting a new acquaintance in the form of the individual piano he will be required to play. Each instance offers up unique challenges from the dynamics of the instrument to the simple touch and action of the keys.
On this date Eubanks and the rented piano that is his partner seem at ease with each other’s company from the onset. Balancing a dancing right hand with the precision fills of responsive left on “Sand Prints” he measures sadness-tinged chords into a more hope-infused underlying melody. “Heart Strong” shows another selection of emotive facets from plaintive uncertainty in the opening sections to self-assured romanticism in the later minutes. The majority of pieces are his own creations, but several standards from the Monk, Coltrane and Bird songbooks also make noble appearances. All of the tracks come together into a recital of uncommon vision and beauty and truth be told literal volumes could be penned describing their musical contents in the purplest prose possible. Perhaps most promising of all hearing Eubanks in this setting necessarily conjures the urge to visit him as a member of an ensemble, a prospect that is hopefully in the works whether for it be for CIMP or another label.
Track Listing: Nocturnal/ Sand Prints/ Ra-shied/ Cops-spots/ Ask Me Now/ Heart Strong/ Count Down/ Donna Lee/ Sippin’ at Bells/ Fortune Teller/ Time Out/ Tiago/ Ants.com.
Personnel: Charles Eubanks- piano. Recorded: June 19, 2001, Canton, NY.