Is it genes or a sense of community that led to trumpeter DUANE EUBANKS’ performances at the Hollywood Bowl to Carnegie Hall to the Kennedy Center, Europe and Japan? Born into a Philadelphia family of musically gifted talent, his mother was Kenny Barron’s first piano teacher and a professional church pianist; his brothers, renowned trombonist Robin Eubanks and guitarist Kevin Eubanks (former bandleader of the “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”); and his uncle, legendary pianist Ray Bryant, all contributed to his early music education. Duane started playing for the first time in sixth grade with his brother Kevin’s trumpet, inspired by a good music program, his teacher and fellow students, but didn’t consider music as a career until studying for a Business Administration degree at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; there Duane joined the institution’s Jazz band, which afforded him opportunities to play with Jazz luminaries such as Stanley Turrentine, Shirley Scott, Charles Fambrough and Clark Terry.
After graduating from college, Duane studied Jazz at Temple University, performing in master classes with Dr. Billy Taylor and Wynton Marsalis. His first paying gig was with Philadelphia alto saxophonist Tony Williams, and with the encouragement of the Wilson brothers (saxophonist Stan and pianist Don), he began sitting in at Ortliebs’ with Shirley Scott, Sid Simmons and Mike Boone. Duane, now obsessed and practicing 6 to 7 hours a day, was introduced to the legendary Johnny Coles by Mike Boone. Duane took two years of private lessons with the famed trumpeter, who became one of his primary mentors, showing him “Everything I needed to know…He changed my life, not just the way I thought, but the way I played.” These years of study and continual encouragement from his brothers motivated Duane to move to New York and pursue a career as a professional musician.
Duane has worked with saxophonists Bootsie Barnes, J.D. Allen and Antonio Hart; drummers Louis Hayes, Jeff Williams, and Elvin Jones; trumpeters Tom Harrell, Randy Brecker, and Nicholas Payton; bassists Eric Revis, Dave Holland, and Avery Sharpe; pianists Mulgrew Miller and John Hicks, and trombonist Curtis Fuller. Among other various genres of music, he has recorded and/or toured with The Temptations, Alicia Keys, Mos Def, Wu Tang Clan and Kirk Franklin. Duane’s newest project, Things of That Particular Nature, features Eric McPherson on drums and special guest Steve Nelson on vibraphone. Duane is a recipient of the 2013 Philadelphia Education Fund EDDY Award and contributed to the Dave Holland Big Band’s two GRAMMY Award-winning recordings.
“Music comes from the universe, I think it’s from the core of everything,” opines Duane, but “we need people to react to it, to give it some relevance, be moved emotionally.” And the Philadelphia Real Book is “A great idea…Philadelphia has produced so many great musicians, Jazz in particular…the music goes unheard, un-played and unnoticed, so this is a great way to keep Philadelphia and the musicians relevant.”