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Kevin Eubanks & Stanley Jordan: Duets

Rob Caldwell By

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We know Kevin Eubanks as a long-time leader and guitarist for The Tonight Show band, as well as a string of solo albums. Stanley Jordan, of course, turned the jazz world on its ear in the mid 80's with his revolutionary two-handed tapping technique on the guitar fretboard. Both musicians have been used to being in the spotlight. As such, one might expect a showy, flashy set of tracks on their Duets album. Yet, Duets is an understated album full of tasteful playing with considerable attention to melody and feel.

Eubanks and Jordan have been friends for years, and with Eubanks a veteran accompanist due to his Tonight Show tenure, it was only a matter of time before the two guitarists managed to align their schedules to record together. Just because two musicians get along well personally, though, doesn't always mean it will translate well to a duet format. A duet should be a conversation, and a sharing of simpatico ideas between players with similar skills and objectives. Duets is just such an album. All ten tracks were recorded in the space of a week in Eubanks' home studio. This relatively short time period helps gives the album a focus and unity. There's a flow from song to song, and an overall mellow mood in the selections, ranging from a handful of original compositions to jazz standards ("Nature Boy," "Summertime," "Blue in Green," " A Child is Born") and a pair of contemporary pop songs by Adele and Ellie Goulding.

"Morning Sun," an original, leads things off like a slow breaking dawn, guitar notes spiraling around each other, gaining momentum until the sun breaks over the horizon, each player letting loose flurries of notes, like light scattering across the sky.

A little further in, "Summertime" features a sultry bass groove over which acoustic blues licks dance like those "fish jumping" in the original vocal version of the song. In fact, there's a surprising amount of acoustic guitar for a jazz album by two players known primarily for their skill on electric instruments. As well as "Summertime," acoustic figures prominently on the moody "Vibes," the funky "Old School Jam," and the closing "Goin' On Home."

That's not to say this is an acoustic album. Their cover of Adele's "Someone Like You," for example, features rock-style electric guitar. Likewise, plenty of plugged-in jazz guitar interplay is found on "Nature Boy" and a smooth, wistful version of "Lights," originally an electro-pop hit for Ellie Goulding.

Eubanks and Jordan are virtuoso guitar players, but they're also adept at other instruments, adding extra variety to this release by contributing piano to "Someone Like You," "A Child is Born" and "Blue in Green."

In the end, both artists bring decades of wide ranging musical influences and experiences to Duets, sometimes very different from each other and sometimes similar. Despite, or maybe because of that, they've created here a natural, organic sounding meeting of the minds, and of the fingers.

Track Listing: Morning Sun; Summertime; Nature Boy; Someone Like You; A Child is Born; Old School Jam; Vibes; Blue in Green; Lights; Goin' On Home

Personnel: Kevin Eubanks: guitar, piano, bass; Stanley Jordan: guitar, piano

Title: Duets | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

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