The Messenger is a project that reflects not only the guitarist’s virtuosity on his instrument, but also his impressive compositional skills—writing all but two tracks. Best described simply as a “Kevin Eubanks” recording—without specific categorization—as his intent with The Messenger is to communicate the breadth of his artistic influences.
Joining Eubanks on this stellar outing are longtime collaborator and former Berklee College of Music schoolmate, drummer Marvin Smitty Smith, who fuels the West Coast outfit alongside seasoned session bassist Rene Camacho, percussionist Mino Cinelu and saxophonist Bill Pierce. Smith s East Coast counterpart on this bi-coastal session is the irrepressibly swinging Jeff Tain Watts, a force of nature on the kit who combines with bassist Dave Holland, Philadelphia-based pianist Orrin Evans and New York trumpeter Nicholas Payton for a potent lineup. Together these great musicians bring out the best in Eubanks six-string prowess and ignite his searching instincts throughout the sessions in Los Angeles and New York.
Guitarists Stanley Jordan and Kevin Eubanks team up for the 2015 Mack Avenue release Duets. An intimate, relaxed album, Duets features the esteemed journeyman artists playing both acoustic and electric instruments on a handful of classic standards, originals, and newer pop tunes. Rather than a cutting session, Duets works more as a laid-back conversation in which both musicians revel in the warmth of each other's sound. While they share a similar style, favoring a clean, unaffected approach to the guitar, there are enough differences in each player's sounds to easily distinguish them on a given track.
Kevin Eubanks' first album with a string section is a triumph of good taste, both in the guitarist's gently swinging work and in GRP chief Dave Grusin's unobtrusive, intelligent, unsentimental string charts. Grusin's gorgeously recorded strings seem to seep into the texture, filling the spaces with just enough mortar. The backings alternate between an electric group – with Marcus Miller on bass and Grusin applying the Yamaha DX7 electric piano sound – and often just Ron Carter on acoustic bass (plus the strings, of course).
Shadow Prophets was a marked improvement over The Heat of Heat, but it was obvious that GRP was trying desperately to find a niche for Kevin Eubanks. Despite a distinctive guitar style and an endless stream of ideas, Eubanks was again being molded in the same style as George Benson (the pop version). The inclusion of Mark Ledford also indicates an effort to ride the Pat Metheny wave that was so popular on contemporary radio stations at this time.
This intriguing set features percussionist Mino Cinelu with Kevin Eubanks (on acoustic guitar) and bassist Dave Holland. They perform four Eubanks songs, three by Holland, and two from Cinelu, music that ranges from exotic sounds to light and creative funk grooves. It is quite intriguing hearing Eubanks sticking exclusively to his acoustic guitar and Cinelu adds plenty of catchy yet unpredictable rhythms. However, Holland often takes solo honors and he usually holds the group together with his authoritative and flexible sound. Very interesting music that's worth listening to closely several times.
If heat is the process of energy transfer from one body to another, then that is what Kevin Eubanks has set out to do with velvety guitar sounds that will rub you the right way. Familiar to millions of viewers nightly as the leader of Jay Leno's Tonight Show Band, Eubanks creates this generation's finest creative jazz tunes on The Heat of Heat. Dreamy and memorizing, Eubanks creates an odyssey, with him leading the way, that compels you to dance, twirl, evoke your inner sexuality.