Kevin Eubanks On JazzSet

Note the message on Kevin Eubanks' cap: "Meet You at the Blue Room." It's a nice club in Kansas City, in the historic district where Count Basie, Lester Young and Mary Lou Williams used to play. (Len Katz Photography)

Kevin Eubanks (briefly) and saxophonist Bill Pierce (in the mid 1980s) both played in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, the two-generation-spanning band that is so very important in jazz from 1950s through the '80s. Now Pierce chairs the Woodwinds Department at Berklee College.

Eubanks and Marvin Smith were in The Tonight Show band together for 15 years, with guitar riffs and rim shots for Jay Leno Monday through Friday. "Smitty" brought Los Angeles bassist Rene Camacho into this group.

Their set hits a sweet spot between John Coltrane's "Resolution" and Eubanks' flowing originals, and the audience listens, Detroit style. That means they engage, encourage, respond to the details, love some swing. Eubanks' blues feels personal and made up on the spot.

Kevin Eubanks grew up to the sound of piano lessons on weekends. His mother Vera Eubanks taught at home, and also in the public schools for 35 years. One of her private students was Kenny Barron. Closing our show, from the same Detroit stage, Kenny Barron and the late Mulgrew Miller hold forth on two pianos playing with "Four" by Miles Davis — Eubanks to the left, Mulgrew to the right.

Set List

  • "Resolution" (Coltrane)
  • "Dirty Monk" (Eubanks)
  • "Blues" (Eubanks)
  • "The Messenger"


  • Kevin Eubanks, guitar
  • Bill Pierce, saxophone
  • Rene Camacho, bass
  • Marvin Smith, drums


Kevin Eubanks interview by WBGO's Gary Walker. Thanks to Terri Pontremoli, Chris Harrington and the 2011 DJF team. Dee Dee Bridgewater records at KUNV in Las Vegas, studio engineer Ginger Bruner. Location recording by Timothy Powell, Surround Sound mix by JazzSet's Duke Markos.

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