Talented trombonist Eubanks to perform with EWU jazz ensemble
Electronic blends and international sounds liven up Eubanks’ jazz performances
Renowned trombonist Robin Eubanks fuses international and electric sounds into his jazz music.
Considered the premiere jazz trombonist of his generation, Robin Eubanks will entertain Spokane audiences Saturday, Jan. 12 at The Fox.
Eubanks won’t be alone, and will perform with the Eastern Washington University Concert Jazz Ensemble, along with featured guests Tito Carillo on trumpet, Jeff Davis on drums and jazz vocalist Kate Reid.
Music has been a constant force in Eubanks’ family, and became a stronger passion during his teenage years. Early on, his influences included his mother, who has now taught music for over 30 years.
He was surrounded by music not only at home, but also in the surrounding area.
“Every neighborhood had a band,” Eubanks said. “We’d all play each weekend and you had friendly competitions. We were just trying to always get better.”
From there, he started playing with other jazz bands, just trying to always improve on his skills. Al Gray, a trombonist who performed with Count Basie and others, proved to be another one of the big formative figures in Eubanks’ early career.
“He was really instrumental in getting me started very early, trying to improve,” he said. “He was one of my early mentors, for sure. He still is.”
Musically, the world of jazz is wide open, and Eubanks uses that to the fullest extent, incorporating musical styles from around the world.
“It’s not just 4/4 swing now,” he said.
One of the numbers Eubanks will perform at The Fox includes one where he uses electronics on his trombone to make it sound like a guitar.
Eubanks is extremely self-motivated, and is up to the challenge of continual growth. Spurred by Buddhist teachings that promote self-growth, the challenge to improve is a constant one.
“Part of practicing Buddhism is about continual growth, for me anyway,” he said. “It helps me to challenge myself and just to keep getting better.”
A tenured faculty member at The Oberlin College Conservatory, Eubanks is constantly around younger musicians, seeking to take their passion to the professional level. Performances with the Dave Holland Band and at numerous venues continue to refine his skills, adding to his already talented repertoire.
“There are young musicians coming up who always challenge you and make you want to play better and other great trombone players,” he said. “Just playing with other musicians, and other situations that I play in, it’s stimulating and challenging in and of itself.”
The music industry has changed dramatically since Eubanks first appeared on the scene, and has become much more difficult to maintain a level of exposure. In New York, especially, the amount of competition has gone up dramatically.
“When I first came to New York, there were lots of jazz clubs and you’d play for a week at a time,” he said. “I’m still extremely busy now because I’ve been around for a while, but if I was just going to come in to town now, it would be harder for me.”
As it always has been for musicians, getting that lucky break takes some extra work and passion.
“It’s still possible to play and make a living, it’s just a little bit harder right now,” Eubanks said.
For students seeking to turn their passion into a career, Eubanks offers one piece of solid advice.
“Practice as much as you can,” he said. “And avoid shortcuts.”
Eubanks is also at the forefront of his own five-piece band, Mental Images, which has recorded six albums of original music over the last 10 years.
For more information on Eubanks’ Jan. 12 concert at The Fox with the EWU Concert Jazz Ensemble, call TicketsWest at 800-325-SEAT, or visit http://www.ticketswest.com.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.