There are times when one needs a pause or a break from the path that has been charted. For the past few years, trumpeter/composer Duane Eubanks has been locked into his identity as a quintet leader, being tied up with all the details, good and bad, that are included in such ventures.
Not to say that leading the quintet was especially difficult but a change of pace was called for. The opportunity for such action came in the form of two relaxed recording dates at Steve Maxwell’s Drum Shop in Midtown New York City with a trio made up of mainstays from Eubanks’ Quintet, namely bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Eric McPherson.
The resulting collective ensemble called DE3 (Eubanks says the acronym stands for “Dezron, Eric and I’m three”) was invited to record by engineer and local jazz advocate Jimmy Katz in a setting where there were no time constraints or other issues demanding attention that are typical to most studio recordings. This freedom and approach was reflected in the attitude and performance of the musicians, as the informal proceedings capture them loose, relaxed and willing to experiment.
Live At Maxwell’s is one of those special recordings where the musicians get to let it hang out. While this is a happy circumstance for the players, it also provides its own challenges. The trio setting leaves all the performers more exposed and having to exert more into their performance. This meant that Eubanks, especially, had to be more assertive, or more so that he would typically have done with his Quintet. This loosening of artistic inhibitions is what makes this recording special.
The compositions on the recording are great vehicles for the ensemble to stretch out on. Most of the pieces stem from the pen of Eubanks. Douglas also provides an original and the trio improvises a couple pieces extemporaneously.
The recording begins with the snappy yet understated “Brainfreeze,” a Eubanks piece that he originally heard for quintet but transfers nicely to this communicative trio. Douglas’ “A Slight Taste” is a bouncy tune with a strong bass presence, while Eubanks’ “Little Johnny C Blues” is a dedication to the trumpeter’s former instructor Johnny Coles, whose concepts of developing your sound and melodic ideas while playing are echoed here.
Douglas brought in the bass line for “Saturday Moanin’,” while the rest of this beautiful piece is improvised by the group. The title of Eubanks’ “Strokish” comes from the recollection of the composer’s own stroke in 2008, the music reflecting the brain waves as they fail and shift in his brain when the stroke occurred. “Ebony Slick” is one of Eubanks’ stock tunes and one that builds into a wonderful energetic dance. “Little Rock” originated with Douglas’ bass line with melody and rhythmic concepts, which were totally improvised. This tune closes the recording in a spiritual vein and a veiled tribute to Pharoah Sanders in the name of his hometown.
DE3 has delivered a fantastic recording of nuance, interplay and personality on their new Live At Maxwell’s. Duane Eubanks, Dezron Douglas and Eric McPherson’s step away from the typical studio album and their attempt to create living, breathing music in their own way is a reward to all listeners.
released May 13, 2016
Duane Eubanks - trumpet
Dezron Douglas - bass
Eric McPherson - drums