Nimble Eubanks makes an excellent 'Messenger'
Kevin Eubanks (Mack Avenue)
“The Messenger” is as much a show of the talent of the Eubanks' family as it is of Kevin's by itself. The straight-ahead collection of 11 pieces by the guitarist — and a version of John Coltrane's “Resolution” — features brothers trombonist Robin on three pieces and trumpeter Duane on two. They help to contribute to the band's sound that changes from piece to piece because of shifting personnel. The band features saxophonist Bill Pierce and bassist Rene Camacho on nine songs, and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith on eight, setting a steady sound. But the addition of Duane Eubanks on the moody “Sister Veil” and Robin on “JB”, for instance, help change the tone. One thing that is the same throughout is the work of Eubanks, who can crank out a funky solo or move back to a milder approach as he does on “M.I.N.D.” Whatever the approach, the nimble Eubanks has a style he is shaping into an identifiable one. The album is available Tuesday.
Patricia Barber (Concord Jazz)
‘A Quiet Thing'
Madeline Eastman and Randy Porter (Mad-Kat)
Patricia Barber and Madeline Eastman are two serious singers. They look at songs as works of art in which the lyrics and melodies are to be explored with respect and understanding of each other. On “Smash,” Barber presents 12 originals that are written with the craftsmanship of a poet. The mood ranges from an optimistic “Devil' Food” to the grim “Spring Song” and its thoughts: “April comes and winter gardens grow without him.” She leads a quartet and offers the songs in a deep voice that is as serious as the songs. Eastman's “A Quiet Thing” is a much lighter album in its offering of 14 tunes such as “I Think It's Going to Rain Today” and “Alfie.” Roaming through offerings from such composers as Alec Wilder and Stephen Sondheim, she and pianist Randy Porter operate in rather much a cabaret setting. She is a mezzo who examines all of these works faithfully, even if she brings down the mood a bit on “Pick Yourself Up.” Both of these performers make many jazz singers appear as if they are only fooling around.