Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Kevin Eubanks and Stanley Jordan “Duets” album · March 24, 2015 · Mack Avenue Records #jazz

Kevin Eubanks and Stanley Jordan on their first Duets record? Where’s the DVD of this momentous event? Released on March 24, 2015 with Mack Avenue Records, the 10-track album produced by both fusion guitarists is a gift.

Jordan — a fiend with his touch technique — expressed surprise in a video interview about the project with his friend Eubanks. “It ended up being more laidback and mellow than I thought it would be,” Jordan said, because some of the concepts initially were so upbeat.

A lot of that laidback and mellow stems from the guitarists’ similar gentle natures and organic approach to all their music. Naturally when they performed together, the songs followed suit. What’s also surprising is the kindness exuded through their music, whether it was a touching cover of “Summertime” they barely whispered on with tremendous tonal reflexes, or spontaneous originals they constructed on the fly, vibing easily off one another, showing colors in pastels (“Goin’ On Home,” “Morning Sun”), or locking in on the jazz-funk-blues of melody and percussive beats in an “Old School Jam.”

Soft, yet deep, that kindness showed through, amazing even the players. “This album fills a nice niche because it’s relaxing yet engaging,” Jordan explained in a DL Media release. “When you hear Kevin and me playing together, it’s all about the music and supporting each other. I just love the feel of it — it has a real sweetness. People who listen from their heart are really going to love this record as an antidote to the norm.”

The kindness comes naturally to both Jordan and his playing partner. Eubanks observed astutely that their playing styles invite open discourse rather than competition. “You get more out of the deal when people are involved with a willingness to make the whole thing bigger than ‘my part and your part.’ Together we’ve got this thing that’s bigger than anything we can do alone,” he continued in the release.

This true give-and-take doesn’t get any better than their version of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” a song about kindness, and nobility, in the face of loss. Eubanks embraces Jordan’s interest in covering contemporary artists’ hits, and Jordan, in turn, throws himself into the spontaneous act of composing in the moment, taking their time, meditating on each note, and floating a new style.

They pull out depth, if that’s possible, not previously vocalized on “Someone Like You.” On Adele’s version, the British singer carries the weight of the lyrics and the music softens each blow. Eubanks and Jordan fill in for the vocalist, add background “vocals” on their tones and textures, while intensifying the breadth of the musicality so that the song is neither an adult contemporary love song gone wrong or another atmospheric jazz tumbler.

They do that on everything, walking through various aspects of their favorite tunes, styles, and meditative approaches… a miraculous funky blues in a sweet, sweet death spiral for Miles Davis’ “Blue In Green,” an unctuous, electronically clandestine “Nature Boy,” a gospel groundswelling piano infusion of “A Child Is Born” by Thaddeus J. Jones.

That’s Kevin Eubanks on piano. “My mom played, my uncle Ray Bryant played and I grew up listening to piano, transcribing Oscar Peterson,” he explained in the release. “Guitar was my career. Piano was for relaxing. I enjoyed the freedom of not having to be good on piano, but I’m excited now to put myself out there on … ‘A Child Is Born,’ the first song that made me feel like I was really playing something years ago. It opened up a lot of things for me on piano.”

Duets is the album to put on when you’ve had a rough day, lost a job, lost a friend, lost a spouse, and feel as if life is just one long, hard commute. Kevin Eubanks and Stanley Jordan commit the ultimate act of kindness though, by offering a welcome musical retreat — fingertips away.

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