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Spirit Talk (1993)

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Marvin 'Smitty' Smith

The first of Kevin Eubanks' Spirit Talk albums is the best, with the guitarist's rolling, syncopated guitar solos blending most naturally with the warm sound of brother Robin's trombone, Kent Jordan's alto flute, and Dave Holland's bass. Drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith provides the music with a good kick in the pants when it needs it, the juxtaposition of his aggressive approach with the rich sounds of the winds working better than would be anticipated. The compositions on Spirit Talk are uniformly strong, with interesting, catchy melodies, odd-metered rhythmic figures, and excellent solos by all parties. Eubanks himself is an oft-overlooked modern master of the guitar, with a funky, percussive approach that is immediately recognizable. However, the mix is slightly odd, favoring Smith's drums at the expense of Eubanks' guitar. This works against the music, but it is not so egregious a miscue that the album as a whole suffers from it. The one exception to the all-acoustic approach on this record is "Inside," where Eubanks swaps his steel string for a darkly colored electric. The melancholy tune, the most straight-ahead on the record, is also one of its strongest moments, with Robin Eubanks' trombone carrying the bittersweet melody. Overall, Spirit Talk is a fine album, well worth owning by fans of modern jazz. ~ Daniel Gioffre