Upon leaving The Tonight Show band and setting out on his own the obvious question was can Kevin Eubanks catch up to his contemporaries and make a solo career previously left behind work? The answer was an enthusiastic yes with a beautiful somewhat introspective release that while displaying his technical prowess was true to form to what most people would expect from modern jazz guitar.
The Messenger is the second release from Eubanks on Mack Ave. which streets on February 19th and with his second effort we find Eubanks reaching for a far deeper sonic color palette and a harmonic intensity unrivaled by some of the contemporaries they seem content to stay in their own musical comfort zone. Is this fusion? No. Contemporary Instrumental? No. "Modern Jazz?" Nope! This is simply great music played from the soul of an individual that defines and embraces the creative and artistic process and responsibility. Eubanks celebrates the versatility of a great melody and solid composition by running the six string table from Jeff Beck's "Led Boots" to John Coltrane's "Resolution." Despite the obvious disparity in genre or musical idioms this well thought out gem has an ebb and flow that proves if the tunes are right and you have a great relationship with your producer which in this case just happens to be Kevin Eubanks then transcending genre and allowing the music to carry the load is a thing of beauty. The Messenger proves that after an extended break leading The Tonight Show Band that Eubanks is in fact the real deal!
One of my personal favorites is the blues laden "Ghost Dog Blues." Eubanks apparently picked up his blues riff and runs thanks to some considerable time sitting in with the great Buddy Guy. An entire blues release similar to some of the Blue Note releases of Kenny Burrell would be some righteous tunes laid down by one of the best modern jazz guitarists of our time. I make this somewhat bold statement due to Eubanks willingness to push the envelope without losing accessibility.
This is Kevin Eubanks doing a riff on himself. The Messenger is as technically proficient as it is artistically brilliant when you factor in contributions from essentially his same band of Bill Pierce on reeds, Rene Camacho on bass, Marvin "Smitty" Smith on drums and Joey De Leon, Jr. on percussion. Younger brother Duane Eubanks sits in on trumpet with older brother Robin doing his thing on trombone.
The Messenger has a sound quality reminiscent of an in studio live jam session as Eubanks brings diversity but a whole bunch of fun to a genre that may have been taking itself too seriously for far too long. This album is perfect. There is no criticism to be found anywhere! Easily going on my year end "Best of" list for 2013.