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Kevin Eubanks: Zen Food (2010)

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Kevin Eubanks: Zen Food How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

As the former Tonight Show's music director for 18 years, guitarist Kevin Eubanks admirably performed the necessary duties of leading the house band, trading comedic barbs with host Jay Leno, and whatever else it took to get the job done. But before the glamor and glitz of Hollywood, most folks probably didn't know that Eubanks was and still is a superb jazz musician who has performed with Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
and the Jazz Messengers, bassist Dave Holland
Dave Holland
Dave Holland
b.1946
bass
, and released a number of fine recordings.

Eubanks' new chapter begins with Zen Food, showcasing his continued guitar mastery with a new band and fresh material. The recording's dynamics mirror his talent: an intrepid player with the ability to play with deep feeling; and a robust writer, covering a range of hard hitting vamps ("The Dancing Sea"), stealthy grooves ("Spider Monkey Cafe"), and blue serenity (" The Dirty Monk"), and tender ballads ("I Remember Loving You").

The band's symbiotic connection is crucial, beginning with the cornerstone of bassist Rene Camacho and veteran trap-master Marvin "Smitty" Smith
Marvin
Marvin "Smitty" Smith
b.1961
drums
who was also a member of the Tonight Show band. Moments such as the hymnal inspired "Adoration" are vivid, as Eubanks' acoustic chord-work is the perfect accompaniment to Gerry Etkins' ethereal keyboards. The set feels, at times, like a potpourri of styles, but the high level of musicianship elevates tracks such as the Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
1925 - 1968
guitar
-like storm of "6/8," and the infectiously hip "G G (Gerry's Groove)," where Bill Pierce
Bill Pierce
Bill Pierce
b.1948
sax, tenor
's saxophone laments sweet blues and Eubanks' electric guitar echoes the sentiment with elongated and improvised notes.

Eubanks is a complete player, whether delivering jaw-dropping solos or flavorful comps. On top of that, he's not lost his superlative chops on acoustic guitar, as "Das It" attests. This short barn-burner displays a dexterity, intensity, and muscular finger picking reminiscent of his killer Shadow Prophets (GRP, 1988). What lies ahead for Eubanks is anyone's guess, but it is sure to be an interesting journey that begins with the welcome return of Zen Food.


Track Listing: The Dancing Sea; Spider Monkey Cafe; The Dirty Monk; Adoration; Los Angeles; I Remember Loving You; 6/8; G.G.; Offering; Das It.

Personnel: Kevin Eubanks: guitars; Bill Pierce: saxophone; Gerry Etkins: keyboards; Rene Camacho: bass; Marvin "Smitty" Smith.

Record Label: Mack Avenue Records


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