Kevin Eubanks, "East West Time Line" (Mack Avenue)
This much must always be said for Jay Leno: no one ever found band leaders more deep in the jazz pocket than Leno, whose first two bands were led by saxophonist Branford Marsalis and guitarist Kevin Eubanks.
As great a musician as Doc Severinsen was, he was a consummate studio trumpet player and not quite the jazz soloist that his trumpet players Clark Terry and Snooky Young were. The years that Eubanks offered his musical talents and personality to Leno were often frustrating for fans of his guitar playing which, in its pure form, wasn't in as much evidence on disc as it should have been.
That's not the case anymore.
In his new record, Eubanks does something unassumingly brilliant: He separates his life and career into the places where he pursued them. There's New York from the age of 20 to 35 and California from ages 36 to the present day. What he says is that in another era, his music with two separate bands would have made up sides A and B.
Playing the "New York" music with him is a band for all time: Nicholas Payton, Dave Holland, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Orrin Evans. In his California band are Bill Pierce, Rene Camacho, Mino Cinelu and, on drums, his old Leno-mate Marvin "Smitty" Smith. The New York band plays all Eubanks originals, the California band plays jazz and pop standards including Ellington's "Take the Coltrane," Corea's "Captain Senor Mouse," Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," "My One and Only Love" and the great jazz standard by the Eubanks' family's prodigious pianist uncle Ray Bryant's "Cubano Chant."
A disc that's a happy development if ever there was one.
3 stars (out of four)