by Nick Stubblefield
Robin Eubanks left, Corey Glover, right.
One of my favorite things about jazz music is just how malleable the genre actually is. It encourages extensive creative expression and experimentation without limits. The only "rule," is to break the rules. Trombonist Robin Eubanks presented a show at the Iridium this week that bent the jazz genre in a fun and funky way, and he did so with a laid-back style all his own.
Eubanks opened the show with a lengthy, soulful solo that more than demonstrated his prowess on the instrument, but he played with that kind of tasteful restraint that mainly comes from maturity. He kept things spiced up with plenty of self-controlled laptop-based effects -- mainly delays and distortions -- which gave it a bit of a hard-rock edge. Occasionally, Eubanks would tap out a little groove on electronic drum pads, too. Fitting, as the show was in part promoting his 2014 release Klassic Rock, Vol. 1, a collection of classic rock covers done in a jazzy style. Eubanks, along with his quartet, Mental Images, played a fast and fluid unnamed jazzy opener before a segue into something slower and lush. The group's talents were on full-display.
The show really picked up the energy for the Led Zeppelin favorite "Kashmir." Corey Glover (best known for his work with Living Colour) delivered scorching, searing tenor vocals that rivaled the soul and power of Robert Plant's any day of the week. His performance however, was very much his own. Without the rhythm and power of a guitar, the group had to compensate. Pianist Mike King laid down a syncopated riff based off the famous guitar chunks, and the band filled in the rest with tremendous energy.
Glover joined for two more numbers -- a grooving cover of Zeppelin's "The Ocean," and then a completely improvised tune. Eubanks utilized a loop pedal, too, a favorite tool of many performing musicians. Glover demonstrated the true power of his impressive range, and he did so seemingly effortlessly. He pulled off octave jumps smoother than I ever thought would be possible, and brought a rocking energy that only a rock vocalist can deliver.
It hardly feels right to end a jazz set on anything other than a blues tune, so the group rounded out the night with a "Blues for Jimi Hendrix."