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Live Review

Duane Eubanks Quintet at Blues Alley

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Duane Eubanks
Blues Alley
Washington, DC
July 15, 2015

Duane Eubanks has been fighting to establish a noteworthy identity as a jazz trumpeter for years. One, he's had to dwell in the shadow of his more well-known brothers, Duane and Robin, as well as hustling in the often rough-and-tumble New York jazz scene. 2015 seems to be the year that he has broken out as one of more significant players in modern jazz. His latest release, Things of That Particular Nature (Sunnyside, 2015) has scored highly with fans and critics alike. Plus, he is fronting a top-notch quintet that has been a hit on the summer festival and club circuit.

Eubanks brought his cats for a midweek gig at Washington, DC's Blues Alley, which as been the setting for historic trumpet performances throughout its fabled existence. The quintet included three solid alumni from Jackie McLean's program at the University of Hartford: Abraham Burton on tenor saxophone, Dezron Douglas on bass, and Eric McPherson on drums. Rounding off the group was David Bryant on piano

Eubanks played music from his CD, kicking off the set with a tune he dedicated to his nieces, "As Is," which started started off with the trio opening up, and Eubanks jumping in and holding a musical conversation with Burton. Next up was "Slew-Footed," a funky burner which featured an up-tempo solo from McPherson, and allowed Eubanks to display his alacrity on the horn, reminiscent of another great Philly trumpeter Lee Morgan. Eubanks followed up with the poignant "Aborted Dreams," a ballad which showed great warmth and emotion in his delivery. The rest of the evening was a live rendition of Things of That Particular Nature. "Dance With Aleta," dedicated to Mrs. Eubanks, featured a bouncy melody with undertones of Grover Washington, Jr.. "Beer and Water" showcased a fluid attack by pianist Bryant. The closer, "Purple. Blue, and Red," was dedicated to "Eubanks' wife and daughter and was crafted as a suite, reflecting the mood of each color.

It can be said that Duane Eubanks fronts what is arguably one of the tightest units on the current jazz scene. The frontline with him and his wingman Abraham Burton displays such a rapport that they seem to anticipate each other's moves. While the dynamic duo of Douglas and McPherson has got to be one of the best rhythm tagteams currently playing this music. When they latch onto a groove, they operate like a well-oiled machine. Based on the evening's set at Blues Alley, they have nowhere to go but up.

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