Upside of a heavy, high-profile regular gig on network television: a fat paycheck, free admission to households all across the country, more than a little bit of name recognition. Downside: little time, or incentive, really, to pursue one’s own musical projects. Eighteen years after signing on with the Tonight Show band-all but three of those years as bandleader-guitarist Kevin Eubanks has given up the sure thing in order to resume a performing and recording career in earnest.
Eubanks was last heard leading a studio session for a name label on his 1993 Spirit Talk album and its sequel; for Zen Food he reconnects with Tonight Show bandmate Marvin “Smitty” Smith, the often-explosive drummer from those albums. The two are joined by saxophonist Bill Pierce, keyboardist Gerry Etkins and bassist Rene Camacho for a set of originals that are intriguing and well played, if perhaps a little overproduced. A certain sonic slickness occasionally distracts from the impressive goings-on.