From left to right: Kevin Eubanks, Bill Pierce and Marvin Smitty Smith perform at the Detroit Jazz Festival. Len Katz Photography hide caption

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From left to right: Kevin Eubanks, Bill Pierce and Marvin Smitty Smith perform at the Detroit Jazz Festival.

Len Katz Photography

JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater

Kevin Eubanks On JazzSetWBGO

Kevin Eubanks On JazzSet

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

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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