Kevin Eubanks Explores a Musical Dialogue with Nicholas Payton in Our Studio

Oct 11, 2018

Eubanks and Payton play with bassist Ben Williams and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington at Birdland through Saturday.

Most of America likely recognizes guitarist Kevin Eubanks by his laugh — a prominent part of his 15 years as band leader of the Tonight Show Band, and sidekick to host Jay Leno.

The musicans who have filled such roles — Doc Severinson, Paul Schaefer, Branford Marsalis, Max Weinberg and Questlove, among others — all bring serious musical chops to their role, jazz chops specifically.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Eubanks attended the Berklee College of Music before starting his professional career and playing with Art Blakey, Roy Haynes, Dave Holland and others. Then Leno called and TV history was made.

Speaking with WBGO's Sheila Anderson, Eubanks reflects that the traffic was the worst part of life in L.A., though he took it in stride. And while he has returned to gigging and recording, he remains good friends with Leno and the late-night crowd.

As Eubanks contemplated a recent recording project, he invited trumpeter Nicholas Payton to join him. They'd never played together before, but something told Eubanks it would be a good fit. Turns out he was right, and they've continued working together.

Videography: Chris Tobin and Sarah Kerson
Video Edit: Corey Goldberg
Audio Mix: David Tallacksen