Hendrix On A Horn: The World Of Robin Eubanks His 30-year career includes trailblazing with an electric trombone, but the Oberlin educator and jazz player has never recorded with a big band until now.
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Hendrix On A Horn: The World Of Robin Eubanks

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Hendrix On A Horn: The World Of Robin Eubanks

Hendrix On A Horn: The World Of Robin Eubanks

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There's been plenty of accolades in Robin Eubanks' career. The award-winning musician, composer and educator has played with Stevie Wonder, Elvin Jones and Art Blakey. He's appeared on "The Tonight Show," "Saturday Night Live," the Grammys. He even plays the electric trombone. We're going to have more on that later. But he hasn't released an album of big band music until now - "More Than Meets The Ear."

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBIN EUBANKS SONG)

SIMON: Robin Eubanks joins us from the studios of WDIY in Bethlehem, Penn. Thanks so much for being with us.

ROBIN EUBANKS: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Can I ask you a little bit about your family?

EUBANKS: Sure.

SIMON: You were from a kind of royalty that I'll characterize as Marsalis family North.

EUBANKS: (Laughter).

SIMON: (Laughter) But you grew up in Philadelphia. Your mother was a classical and gospel pianist. Your brother Kevin was bandleader in "The Tonight Show." Your brother Duane is a trumpeter. So did the Eubanks kids kind of quarrel over what instrument they got to pick up? How did you get the trombone?

EUBANKS: I guess I chose first 'cause I was the oldest. And I just picked it out of curiosity 'cause I saw some kids playing Christmas carols around this time of year - trumpet and a trombonist - and all the other instruments you can see how they're fingered or struck or bowed and fingered or - but on the trombone, you just see an arm moving back and forth. And I was curious how you made music moving your arm back and forth because I couldn't figure out how they did it. So I was a curious kid. And they asked me to pick an instrument on the last day of school, and I chose the trombone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBIN EUBANKS SONG)

SIMON: Did you make a point on this album of putting lots of Obie people - Oberlin grads?

EUBANKS: That was part of my proposal, the research status that I got from Oberlin. But also I knew all the students that I chose - or former students, I should say. And I knew that they would do a great job and they did. And it's also giving back because people did so much for me when I was coming up and I was their age. You know, Slide Hampton did so much for me and a whole lot of other musicians that saw a lot of potential in me. And I wanted to connect them to some of the veteran New York musicians who are friends of mine so they can get exposed and people can get to hear them. And hopefully it'll get them some more work also.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBIN EUBANKS SONG, "BLUES FOR JIMI")

SIMON: And the electric trombone. So I'm assuming you don't play this in the shower, right?

EUBANKS: Definitely not (laughter). But, you know, I grew up listening to rock and funk music when I was a kid. And I had a trombone so I was definitely curious as to how I could get my trombone to fit in in the electric environment a little bit more 'cause of the music that I was really enjoying listening to. And I was experimenting even from when I was a teenager, trying to use a phase shifter. And I was a guest soloist with a band in Lausanne, Switzerland. And the sax player had a mic clipped on his bell, and on the intermission, I asked him if I could clip it on my bell. Then I plugged it into the guitar player's rig and all kinds of bells and whistles went off in my head. I said this is it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBIN EUBANKS SONG)

SIMON: Can I ask you about the future of big-band music?

EUBANKS: Sure.

SIMON: It's an expensive art form, isn't it?

EUBANKS: Oh, it's definitely expensive. And I was fortunate enough to get some grants and things like that and, of course, you know, it's like three times the size of a quintet or more. So there's a lot more overhead. So it's a challenging thing, but, you know, I'm encouraged when I see, like, some of the big bands that are working now, they go on tour and so it must be possible. I don't know how they do it. But I just love the sound. It just offers so many possibilities 'cause within the big band, you have solo, duo, trio. You have all the different combination of small groups. Just a lot of different possibilities color-wise and organizational-wise, so I think I'm just scratching the surface with the possibilities that I'm hearing and that I want to try.

SIMON: "More Than Meets The Ear" from the Robin Eubanks Mass Line Big Band. Thanks so much.

EUBANKS: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBIN EUBANKS SONG)

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