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Tuesday, 02 April 2013 08:21

Charting the Music: Kevin Eubanks, 'The Messenger'

Charting the Music: Kevin Eubanks, 'The Messenger'
Written by Travis Dettmann
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Three years have come and gone since his leadership of the Tonight Show Band; Kevin Eubanks shows no remorse for his departure. "The Messenger" is a montage of funk, jazz and blues, Eubanks style.

"The Messenger" marks Kevin Eubanks' 14th solo album. Employing many of the musicians of "Zen Food," including his brothers on brass, the record contains a unique personality, effortlessly blending various genres creating an honest album that'll have you salivating for more.

88.1 KDHX Chart Position: #2 Jazz for the week of March 26, 2013.

Record label, release date and producer: Mack Avenue Records released "The Messenger" on February 19, 2013; it was produced by Kevin Eubanks and Maria Ehrenreich.

Can be heard on: Stumble in the Dark with James Mullins and In the Middle of the Night with Kevin Lawrence.

RIYL: Eric Reed, Pat Metheny and Lee Ritenour.

Hometown: Philadelphia.

Standout Tracks: "Sister Veil" faintly reminds one of a theme song straight from a classic detective drama. The funk-o-rific "420" is jam-packed with brass solos and bongos, humbly layered with wah-wah-ed guitar. It is a few hours from the break of dawn; the bars have all closed. There you wait under a lone streetlight for a cab that'll never come; that is "Ghost Dog Blues."

About the artist: Kevin Tyrone Eubanks was born on November 15, 1957. He studied piano, violin and trumpet in elementary school and also attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, which he left to pursue music in New York. Kevin is best known as the bandleader and guitarist for Jay Leno's Tonight Show Band from 1995 through 2010, leaving to focus on his music once again.

This label: Detroit business crusaders Tom Robinson and Gretchen Valade founded Mack Avenue Records in 1999; the label's base of operations is located in Harper Woods, Mich. Since its establishment, the label has collected Sly Dog Records, Artistry Music and Rendezvous Music, which are all distributed through Sony Music Entertainment. Mack Avenue focuses on jazz and R&B, having released works by guitarist Stanley Jordan, Yellowjackets and Tia Fuller.

Play it while: Popping a bottle of fine wine... sparkling grape juice for the kids.

Did you know?: The Eubanks' family tree contains a few accomplished musicians that give Kevin a run for his money. Both of his brothers, Robin and Duane, play trombone and trumpet respectively and appeared on "The Messenger" as well as some of his other works. Their mother, Vera, is pianist/organist of gospel and classical music, and Ray Bryant, Kevin's uncle, is a jazz pianist.

Awards and accolades: In 1992, Kevin Eubanks' "Turning Point" peaked 8th on the "Top Jazz Albums" list while the follow-up 1993 effort, "Spirit Talk," reached the 14th spot. Eubanks' 2010 release "Zen Food" peaked 12th on the "Jazz Albums" chart while "The Messenger" climbed to the 17th mark.

What the critics say: "Before, with 'Zen Food,' Eubanks seemed inordinately enamored of a higher state, far removed from everyday temptations. With 'The Messenger,' he explores the baser, man-made conventions, with fond remembrances of the past, his past - 1970s funk, so get on the dance floor, fools! His choice to go funk, almost every time, will win favor with the more mainstream-oriented, broader-based audience." Carol Banks Weber, Examiner.

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