Kevin Eubanks didn't do much recording as a leader during his 18 years as Jay Leno's music director on The Tonight Show, though Zen Food was taped shortly before the guitarist announced his departure from his long-running gig. Eubanks is accompanied by veteran saxophonist Bill Pierce (heard on both tenor and soprano), drummer Marvin "Smitty" Smith, keyboardist Gerry Etkins, and bassist Rene Camacho. Eubanks' opener, "The Dancing Sea," signals the diversity of his long-awaited CD, leading off with an intricate, infectious theme over a contemporary Latin rhythm, though the guitarist ends up playing a very heated solo, buoyed by Etkins' electric piano and Smith's powerful drumming, while showcasing Pierce's lyrical soprano sax. He switches to acoustic guitar for "Adoration" (which is derived in part from the centuries-old hymn "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"), creating an intimate yet lively duet with Etkins' Fender Rhodes. Eubanks' breezy bop vehicle "6/8" is launched with the guitarist's hot riff accompanied solely by Pierce's equally hot tenor sax, with the intensity building as Etkins' funky organ enters with the rhythm section. Eubanks also proves himself as a ballad master with the whispering ballad "I Remember Loving You." Kevin Eubanks will satisfy jazz fans with his delicious Zen Food.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden