Robin Eubanks

Live, Vol. 1

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AllMusic Review by

Robin Eubanks says that this album is best experienced when seen as well as heard. He's right. You do have to watch his new high-tech electric trio in order to appreciate how they operate in real time. And Eubanks gives you that chance by including a 43-minute DVD of five of the CD's nine tracks, all recorded and performed before a live audience. It's quite a spectacle -- and the music is a gas, too. On the first track, "Me Myself and I," Eubanks lays down a harmonic riff one voice at a time on trombone into the sequencer, then picks up drumsticks, beats out a catchy rhythm track on a drum computer, and plays the trombone on top of that. Then drummer Kenwood Dennard launches another groove on "Mojo Jojo" with his right hand while playing synth bass with his left. It's a pretty amazing demonstration of one-armed drumming, akin to watching a classical pianist play Ravel's "Concerto for the Left Hand." Nothing is missing from his jazz/funk beat, and his bassline rumbles along, often in polyrhythmic contrast to the drums. Eubanks is no slouch at generating a groove himself, gradually piecing together a cooking Cuban rhythm on "Solo Latin," layering the trombones, and then after flashing a big satisfied grin, he kicks in a furious live trombone solo. "Blues for Jimi Hendrix" suddenly finds Eubanks' trombone filtered through an electronically distorting series of ululations, coming off more like Eddie Harris than Hendrix, while keyboardist Orrin Evans adds some soulful organ. "X-Base" sports an M-Base beat with an angular electronic theme and a menacing bassline that is transferred from Dennard to Evans and back with disarming ease. That does it for the DVD, and if you wonder why all nine selections of the album weren't included, it could be that the album's remaining four tracks aren't as photogenic as the five that were. But there is plenty of good music to be found on the audio-only selections as well; "Pentacourse" being a particularly tricky funk workout and "House of Jade" an absorbing etude for electronic trombone. It's a stimulating workout in any format.

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