"Spirit Talk 2: Revelations"
* * * 1/2
This remarkable guitarist is nothing if not versatile. Many know him as the relaxed and confident temporary leader--so it's said--of "The Tonight Show" band. The man has also made unique jazz-fusion albums earlier in his career. And he can play dazzling straight-ahead jazz, as anybody can tell you who heard him at Catalina Bar & Grill last year in that splendid trio with pianist James Williams and bassist John Clayton.
Yet another aspect of the multitalented Eubanks emerges on this album and its similarly alluring predecessor, where the guitarist gathers his regular, first-rate recording colleagues--among them brother Robin Eubanks (trombone), Kent Jordan (alto flute), Dave Holland (bass) and Marvin (Smitty) Smith (drums)--to create some distinctive sounds.
The participants offer music that feels organic in its evolution growing quite naturally from softness to a louder intensity. It is a music based on openness that avoids excess while allowing for expansive, exploratory improvisations. This is music that sounds as if it were meant to evoke the outdoors, and indeed tunes bear titles such as "Like the Wind," "Earth," "Sun" and "Moon."
Though they are usually not fast, most of the numbers have a somewhat upbeat flair--"Whispers of Life" is an exception--and after the initial melodies, charged solos follow. The leader is chameleonic, recalling the furry lyricism of Jim Hall one moment, the dash and intensity of John MacLaughlin in the next. His tone can be a round glow--or brightly metallic if he's playing sans electricity--and he drops in loping lines, spitfire bursts and stretched phrases, all in a logical, storyteller's fashion. Trombonist Eubanks can either purr or bark his notes, and Jordan's statements dance. Often the players improvise simultaneously, but cacophony is never an issue.
Creating an essential part of this delicious tumult is the rhythm team, notably Holland's elastic, muscular pulse and Smith (and alternate drummer Gene Jackson) adding an infectious beat.
These are musical moods that will engage a wide span of listeners without playing down to anyone, a welcome feat in any year. Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent).