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On his sixth CD as a leader, Robin Eubanks progresses from the distinguished history of the jazz trombone, and he moves ahead to advance its voice in a way that few other trombonists have done. With the recent passing of J.J. Johnson and Al Grey, Eubanks is taking the lessons from their own innovations and is growing with his own. While listeners have no doubt been impressed with Eubanks' recent work with Dave Holland, lurking beneath his interpretations of Prime Directive's tunes has been an even more stunning and inimitable voice.
And that voice is one of electronica. It seems that Robin Eubanks has been tinkering with the electronic possibilities of the trombone as long as he can remember. But when he hooked up his trombone to a microphone and fed it through an amplifier in the late eighties, his vision was complete. He finally could create a new palette of colors on his instrumentone which was traditionally unique nonetheless because of its use of the slide for attaining pitch and its ability to simulate the human voice in all of its emotional variations.
With full control of the production of Get 2 It, Eubanks now can present his own electrified trombone sound, at the same time that he refers to his numerous influences. Especially on "REM State," "Blues For Jimi" and "RNB-First Take," Eubanks develops the possibilities for musical expression by including echoes, reverb, zooming and looping to attain a contemporary version of the wah-wahing and slurs of the gutbucket trombone. If there were any doubt about the origins of the inspiration, keyboardist George Colligan accompanies Eubanks on this blues with gospel-influenced organ.
In deference to Eubanks' work with Holland's group, he plays "Cross Currents" with members of that group, including Holland himself and drummer Billy Kilson. True to form, "Cross Currents" consists of slippery meters and changing moods combined into a flowing whole. The same approach occurs on "Indo," which shifts gears at the slightest notice and keeps the listener on edge as the unpredictable rhythmic structure adds tension to the piece.
Eubanks' CD is a family affair as well. Younger brother Duane appears on several of the tracks, obviously as schooled and as accomplished as Robin. Duane's presence on "Metamorphos" and "Sabanna" creates a brightness and seamless assertiveness that energize the tunes. And other brother Kevin Eubanks shows up to play in duo with Robin on "Essie," a fraternal remembrance of a caring associate, and on "Reunion," a Latinized tune of give-and-take improvisation over Mino Cinelu's percussion.
As distinctive as Steve Turre is with his combined use of shells and trombone, or as personalized as Wycliffe Gordon's use of the plunger mute may be, Robin Eubanks hasafter years with the likes of Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and Steve Colemanestablished his own musical signature. In the meantime, he has advanced the trombone beyond its traditional role.
If there is any doubt about the intricacies of Eubanks' music, just listen to his "Audio Notes" at the end of Get 2 It. Not only does he graciously thank everyone associated with the project, but also he briefly but articulately explains in theoretical and technical terms the structural and personal bases for the tunes. And on a closing note, he thanks the listener and invites him or her to his web site.
Track Listing: Metamorphos, Get 2 It, Essie, REM State, Blues For Jimi, Cross Currents, RNB-First Take, Sabanna, House Of Jade, Reunion, Indo, Audio Notes
Personnel: Robin Eubanks, trombone; Duane Eubanks, trumpet; Kevin Eubanks, guitar; George Colligan, Michael Cain, piano, organ; Lonnie Plaxico, Dave Holland, bass; Gene Jackson, Billy Kilson, drums; Mino Cinelo, percussion; Maya Azucena, vocals
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.