Audio Mixers: Robert Biles; Kevin Eubanks.
Recording information: Spirit Studios, West Hills, CA.
Illustrator: Keith H. Brown .
Guitarists Stanley Jordan and Kevin Eubanks team up for the 2015 Mack Avenue release Duets. An intimate, relaxed album, Duets features the esteemed journeyman artists playing both acoustic and electric instruments on a handful of classic standards, originals, and newer pop tunes. Rather than a cutting session, Duets works more as a laid-back conversation in which both musicians revel in the warmth of each other's sound. While they share a similar style, favoring a clean, unaffected approach to the guitar, there are enough differences in each player's sounds to easily distinguish them on a given track. Jordan favors his innovative touch and tap technique, while Eubanks digs deep into his rounded, woody sound; both of them employ various dynamic volume swells and neck slides. Eubanks and Jordan have led varied, highly successful careers playing music that's often difficult to pin down, touching upon jazz, fusion, instrumental pop, classical, and R&B. Not surprisingly, Duets is marked by this eclecticism and features a wide-ranging list of songs from across the musical spectrum. Primarily, they accompany each other on guitar, but on a handful of tracks, including the duo's soulful rendition of Adele's "Someone Like You," Jordan plays piano and guitar at the same time to wonderful effect. The piano and guitar technique also adds layers of harmonic depth to their poignant, measured arrangement of Thad Jones' "A Child Is Born." Interestingly, Jordan sets his guitar aside completely, choosing instead to fully embrace his inner Bill Evans and accompany Eubanks on piano on their soulful, yearning version of Miles Davis' "Blue in Green." Also engaging are the pair's reworkings of unexpected contemporary pop songs like Ellie Goulding's "Lights"; an electronic pop anthem, Jordan and Eubanks deftly strip the song down to a few simple melodic motifs that capture the atmospheric vibe of Goulding's original, while shading the song with a nuanced soul-jazz romanticism. Ultimately, it's that kind of creativity and technical skill, matched by Jordan and Eubanks' passion for sound, that make Duets such an enveloping listen. ~ Matt Collar