Live At Bradley's

Kevin Eubanks

Blue Notes, 1996

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review originally appearing in On The Town magazine on February 18, 1997]

Kevin Eubanks knows about life as a second banana. Ed McMahon may have been born for the role of Johnny Carson's foil (and born damned lucky), but Branford Marsalis clearly detested assuming the McMahon/Doc Severinsen role when Jay Leno took over my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Tonight Show. Eubanks, on the other hand, always seemed much more comfortable in the role during his 15-year run with Leno, and here may just be his secret—like McMahon, Eubanks seems to be a low-key, affable guy without much in the way of ego-needs, and yet, like Marsalis, he is one hell of a musical talent.

On Live at Bradley's, his eighth album, jazz-fusion guitarist Eubanks and fellow players James Williams (piano) and Robert Hurst (bass) breeze through a run of jazz classics and contemporaries for an appreciative New York crowd. The mood throughout is intimate and sophisticated—this is letter-perfect late evening relaxation music. Which is not to say there aren't shows of instrumental prowess—Eubanks' deft fretboard runs on the feverish "June In January" are a wonder, and his masterful solo treatment of Duke Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood" oozes confidence and class. It's just that the tendency toward long jams ("Speak Low" and Williams' "Alter Ego" both clock in at over 14 minutes; the album contains seven songs and runs over 70 minutes) makes the music flow like a river, pausing only long enough to round a bend into the next melody.

Here, then, was Eubanks' real secret—Leno could pull all the dumb make-fun-of-the-foil gags he wanted, but Eubanks would still have performances like Bradley's to satisfy his musical jones, and enjoyed a nightly audience in the millions in the meantime. Smooth move, Kev.

Rating: B+

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