Jamming with Robin Eubanks

March 22, 2009

My cellphone rang early, not long after 8 am. It was Mike, who I play with in OEQ. He asked if I was going to the SF Jazz Collective concert at the Chan Centre that night. I told him I was going to a Canucks game. Mike said there was a possibility of hanging out after the show with Robin Eubanks, the trombonist in the collective. Mike met Robin years ago in Edmonton. Mike and Oliver, who’s also in OEQ, jammed with Robin once, and maybe he would jam again.

Despite Mike’s call, I didn’t really think anything would happen. But then he called again, sounding more excited, and advising me to make myself available after the game. I started to get intrigued. Robin is one of the world’s best jazz trombonists, who leads his own groups, plays with the Dave Holland Quintet and Big Band, and has performed with leading artists: Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, and Michael Brecker among many others. Robin also comes from a musical family: his brother Kevin is a guitarist and leader of the Tonight Show band; another brother Duane is a trumpeter. Meeting Robin would be cool; playing with him would be scary!

Sure enough, after the game, I got the call to come over to Oliver’s place, which is where OEQ rehearses. When I showed up, Robin wasn’t there, because he went to grab a bite with Niina (Mike’s friend, who has also jammed with OEQ). After they returned, we hung out upstairs – Robin is a very nice, easy-going guy. Eventually someone suggested we go downstairs to play, and Robin was game. By this point it was after midnight, on a weeknight, but I didn’t care.

Robin brought his trombone down but he slid behind the drum kit. Oliver played electric bass, Mike was on tenor sax, Niina did spoken word, I was on keys, and a bunch of people sang. We played reggae (“Shanty Town”, “Guns of Brixton”, “Rudy, A Message to You”), a lounge version of a punk classic (“Too Drunk to F_ _ _”) and jazz (“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, “So What”).

Robin isn’t known for his drumming, but he laid down a solid groove, swung, and knew how to play reggae (the true test of a drummer). As for the rest of us, we shambled along, sounding pretty rough. But it didn’t matter. No snootiness came from Robin, who just a few hours earlier had shared the stage with the likes of Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas, Renee Rosnes and Miguel Zenon. He looked pretty content and was having fun, like the rest of us. My only regret is that we didn’t ask Robin to play trombone, but that would have changed the relaxed dynamic of the jam.

After we finished with “So What” at around 2 am, I drove Robin back to his hotel. When I went to get his trombone out of the trunk I accidentally referred to his horn as a “sax”. (Dummy.) But he didn’t care. Robin was a class act right to the end. We shook hands and I drove Mike and Niina home, all of us buzzing after a memorable evening with Robin Eubanks.

An example of Robin’s trombone virtuosity:

Robin’s sites:


One comment

  1. OMG!!!

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