Duane Eubanks + DE3 – Live At Maxwell’s (2016)

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A far cry away from the Live At Maxwell’s albums put forth by alternative rock acts such as The Meat Puppets and Imperial Teen, jazz cat Duane Eubanks does Maxwell’s his way on a stimulating live set bearing the same name, from Sunnyside Records.

An impressionistic trumpet player and composer of the highest order, it would have been easy for Eubanks to follow up last year’s superb post-bop offering Things of That Particular Nature with another studio, quintet date. Instead, he went to a nightclub and brought only his rhythm section drummer Eric McPherson and bassist Dezron Douglas with him to make music away from the tedious demands of the studio. But he also took on the challenge of recording in front of an audience without the safety net of re-dos or the comfort of a pianist and another horn to fall back on. In leading his DE3 trio, Mr. Eubanks prefers to put it all on the line.

Live offers even more than that, because all but one of these originals (mostly from Eubanks’s pen) hadn’t previously appeared on a prior Eubanks album and a couple of these didn’t even exist in full form before what we are hearing from these recordings.

Under the whiter glare of a chord-less trio, Eubanks’ rump band simply shines. “Brainfreeze” was envisioned for a five-piece band, but that doesn’t prevent Eubanks from articulating the whole harmony of the song all on his own. When he gets done doing his thing, McPherson engages the toms in a unique way while Douglas breaks down the bass line to its elements. “A Slight Taste” is Douglas’s tune and you can tell as he uses a funky, knotty circular bass figure for its foundation and Eubanks knows just how to dance with it, too. McPherson’s brushes keeps the cadence light, enabling Douglas’s figure to stay up front where it belongs.

“Little Johnny C Blues” does indeed articulate the blues once Douglas’s sweet little bass intro is done. For this tribute to Eubanks’ old instructor the late great Johnny Coles, Eubanks sounds like he’s taking a trumpet test for Coles and passing with flying colors. “Saturday Moanin'” is a solemn but easygoing number that is presented with such elegance by Eubanks offering lyrical, pensive around Douglas’ repeating bass figure; it doesn’t seem possible that this piece is mostly a group improv. “Little Rock” is also a group-composed piece that sprung from a wistful Douglas bass pattern; Eubanks wrings a weeping timbre from his horn.

“Strokish” gets going with a slowly building fire emanating from McPherson’s trap kit; what follows is the boss bop chops of Eubanks. “Ebony Slick” is one of Eubanks’ customary live numbers — from 2001’s Second Take — and the funky original makes you wanna move. Is Douglas and McPherson able to replicate that hip feel on their own? You better believe they do.

Only Eubanks’ fourth album since his 1999 debut, Live At Maxwell’s is the first to give those of us who hadn’t been able to see him lead on the bandstand a taste of what he’s capable of in such a setting. We could use many more tastes like this.

Things of That Particular Nature

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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