Live Jazz: Kevin Eubanks at the Baked Potato

By Tony Gieske

If you think you know Kevin Eubanks from catching his band before he departed The Tonight Show, you’re in for a shock should you visit the Baked Potato on the nights he plays there.

((NBC seems to have convinced the press that you must use Leno’s name every time you mention the Tonight Show. I refuse.))

No longer suffering through the task of backing up pop singers and other trained seals, he has kicked over the traces in a very big way.  Pop has been replaced by huge blasts of unexpected creativity the like of which is never going to be heard on network television.

Eubanks now has a unique way of working in bursts of deliciously advanced improvisation that beggars description or at least makes it very hard.

Now it’ll be chords, next single string, then dissonance, a dip into hymn territory, snatches of wild, Hendrix tinted output…all rich and super-condensed, or do I mean superheterodyne?

After the blast, out comes his brother Robin Eubanks, a very advanced trombonist who teaches at two colleges, has played with Sun Ra and Stevie Wonder, and works out these days with the SFJAZZ Collective, where his band mates include Eric Harland, Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas, Miguel Zenón, Stefon Harris, Renee Rosnes, and Matt Penman.

So although brother Kevin gives him plenty of advanced chordal difficulty to chew on, he never gets lost, turning Kevin’s fast moving  simultaneities into lightning fast arpeggiation.

The soloists’ paths were tamped down Coltrane style by a boom-alay rhythm pair, the bassist Rane Camacho and the drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith.

Kevin has been coming out with this tougher-than-ever  stuff since he left Leno late in May, and seems to have a lot of torque stored up after his 15 years of non-involuntary servitude. Thank goodness.

Photos by Tony Gieske.  Read and see more of Tony’s jazz essays and photos at his personal web site


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