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Robin Eubanks: Representing the Trombone Community

Before & After listening session with the valued veteran trombonist

Robin Eubanks in listening mode at NYU's Clive Davis Institute
Robin Eubanks in listening mode at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute (photo: Ashley Kahn)

Just back from touring summertime Europe with the Mingus Big Band, Robin Eubanks has driven in from his home in northern New Jersey to meet for his first Before & After. We’re in a studio at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music, and for a man whose schedule book is full to the margins, he appears grounded and well-rested. His is a workable balance of road gigs (the Detroit Jazz Festival in September, a month-long residency in San Francisco with the SF Collective in October, followed by another three-week European jaunt), recording projects, and his mainstay: teaching and guiding young players at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he’s been teaching jazz trombone and composition for more than 20 years. In 2017, he added a position at the San Francisco Conservatory to his CV.

When Eubanks talks about the trombone, it’s more like he’s describing a community than an instrument. Under a calm, soft-spoken exterior lies an intense feeling of connection with other trombonists. He’s visibly disappointed when he misses identifying certain players; admittedly there were some curveballs in the playlist he faced. His responses are as much about his history as about the music he hears, revealing a deep range of musical experiences: growing up in the musical Eubanks family (with his brothers, guitarist Kevin and trumpeter Duane, and his uncle, pianist Ray Bryant) and the fertile Philadelphia music scene of the 1970s; moving to New York in ’80 and falling in with free players and more traditional jazz groups, uptown and down; becoming part of Brooklyn’s groundbreaking M-Base collective.

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