Live Vol. 1
Trombonist Robin Eubanks’ latest group, EB3, is one of the stranger and more innovative trios you’re going to come across. Orrin Evans plays electric keyboards, and Kenwood Dennard plays drums with his right hand and keyboard bass with his left. Eubanks plays acoustic and electric trombone, keyboard bass and percussion pads, and uses loops to create virtual ensembles. All of this creates the illusion that there are no fewer than four musicians on the bandstand. Sometimes it sounds like there’s a heck of a lot more.
Eubanks steps right up, blowing unaccompanied, and then, using loops to place trombone phrases atop one another, creates the illusion that he’s an entire trombone section. Then he grabs the drumsticks and adds an ’80s-style drum machine beat over the horns. The tune, wryly titled “Me Myself & I,” serves as an intro to “Mojo Jojo,” which is where Dennard begins to strut his stuff. You could never tell he’s playing the drums with only one hand, and yet it sounds as though undivided attention is being paid to the bass line. The tune ultimately develops into a very funky 13/8 groove! Dennard’s dexterity is simply astounding.
“Solo Latin,” in which Eubanks performs alone again, is a mistake. Using pads and loops, he adds layer upon layer of conga, maraca, clave—you name it—until it sounds like a Latin percussion ensemble. Then he blows over that, looping the horn phrases. It grows monotonous. Ten minutes of the same two bars only takes you so far.
The atmosphere recharges when Eubanks electrifies his trombone on “Blues for Jimi Hendrix,” turning it into an electric guitar, and Evans lays down bluesy, soulful passages with a synth voice that mimics a Hammond B3. More upbeat funk (“Jig Saw”) and electric-trombone showmanship (Wayne Shorter’s “House of Jade”) follow, and the trio goes out with a bang, throwing everything from its toolbox at “X-Base,” which nods to both the Headhunters and Maceo Parker.