by Britt Rizzo
Jazz musicians Kevin Eubanks (guitar) & Orrin Evans (piano) bring a homegrown Philly sound to their duo project with the debut album EEE: The Eubanks-Evans-Experience out now. The two spent decades honing their craft and carving out space as jazz powerhouses and their new collab is audible proof of Philly excellence.
The following questions were answered by guitarist and composer, Kevin Eubanks and Orrin Evans.
The two of you have found success through your respective careers in music – how did you decide to collaborate on this project together?
K.E.: We both have been talking about this for a really long time. Playing on each other’s recordings and performances has given us more and more opportunities to share our musical sense and trust. Little by little, we felt that now was the right time. I guess sometimes it’s better to let ‘nature’ choose the right time, it can be the perfect time. A creative, natural balance!
O.E.: I moved to NY with Kevin’s brother Duane almost 30 years ago. Around that same time, I went to LA with an All-Star young band and we were introduced to Branford Marsalis and the members of the Tonight’s show band. I introduced myself to Kevin and told him I was Duane’s friend and soon-to-be roommate. That was our first official meeting. Over the years we hung at family events and cookouts. One day Kevin said, “Man we should do a duo project”. It took a few years (almost 10..lol) but we finally found the time and started the process of recording.
How does being from Philly influence and inspire your sound?
K.E.: Philadelphia has always generated a love of music. All over the city live music was and still is at the heart of Philly. Everything from Doo-Wop, Gospel, Jazz, Classical, Pop, R & B, Funk, Rap, Hip-Hop, etc. It was/is in the air, everywhere throughout the decades. It was impossible for me not to be influenced by it. My mother and her brother Ray Bryant highly influenced our entire family. Feeling the music of Philadelphia was natural. You musically breathe it. There’s a feel that as a Philly-born and raised musician, can’t help but be embraced by it. Philly music has a deep, deep feel to it. Amen!
O.E.: Philly is a sound and if you’re from here you can’t escape it. The sound is in the streets, schools, and churches. The sound is what makes you move your body, cry, reminisce, get up, and dance. It’s not something tangible but it’s oh so important and spiritual.
What are your thoughts on the current jazz scene in Philly and how has it changed since you were coming up in the city?
K.E.: There are wonderful venues in Philly for the music and it would be great if there were lots more! I feel great musicians will always be here and the music lovers as well. Never ever lacking in musicianship. Great music is here to stay. I wish somehow there could be lots of different types of venues that could present fresh eclectic Jazz music. Easier said than done of course. Somehow we need get more! The scene is made up of all of us.
O.E.: Change is inevitable. The scene hasn’t “changed” per se but the people have changed. Our mentors have passed and it’s time for the new ones to embrace their job of cultivating and educating a new school of younger musicians. Ultimately the scene is a leaderless entity that sometimes needs a leader to step up to show the mentors how to be mentors.
Kevin Eubanks said he likes “to play with musicians where you don’t have to talk much; you just find a feeling and a direction and go there together.” Is there anything you two attribute to the unspoken flow you share?
K.E.: Being open-minded, supportive, natural compatibility, respectful, and trusting of each other. Oh yeah, we’re both “PHILLY.” There’s something to that. We both speak and play a “language” we understand. The music highly reflects that communication.
O.E.: Lack of Fear.
What are you most looking forward to for your hometown show?
K.E.: I am so looking forward to opening up the music chest. Ride the sky. Here’s to all the people that choose to share their evening with us and the memories of growing up right here in Philadelphia. See you soon!
O.E.: Playing music in front of people who have known us for years… people that share memories from childhood. Those memories good and bad fuel the music and the fellowship.