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Live at Bradley's (1994)

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Kevin Eubanks

On this live date, Kevin Eubanks is joined by pianist James Williams and bassist Robert Hurst for a mainly straight-ahead affair. Most of Eubanks' best-known solo work lies in a more fusiony vein, such as Turning Point or Spiritalk, but on Live at Bradley's his playing is refreshingly conventional. Both his single-note lines and his chordal embellishments show a surprisingly deep knowledge of the history of jazz guitar. There are moments when Eubanks' playing even evokes George Van Eps. Five out of the seven tracks on this record are over ten minutes long, and all of them drag somewhere in the middle, as the improvisations of the musicians tend to be a little bit formless. However, there are some nice moments here, as on the opening track, where Williams elegantly swings through the changes of "Speak Low" while Eubanks and Hurst make the presence of a drummer superfluous with their deep groove and percussive accents. In this sort of drummerless trio arrangement, Hurst takes the place of the ride cymbal and Eubanks provides the punctuation. The groove is so convincing that at those moments where Hurst's bass buzzes, it almost sounds like the ring of a cymbal. The weakness of Live at Bradley's is that, given the rather conventional nature of these compositions, the players don't address them in a terribly interesting way. These songs are competently and musically played, but it's nothing that the average jazz fan hasn't heard before. Eubanks fans who are curious to hear him in this sort of format will certainly be entertained. ~ Daniel Gioffre