Tonight Show Bandleaders, The Tonight Show Band is the house band which plays on the American television variety show, The Tonight Show. From 1962 to the 1990s, during the years the show was known as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, the band was a 17-piece Big Band, and was an important outlet for jazz on American television. During the Carson era, the band was always billed as “The NBC Orchestra” (not to be confused with the NBC Symphony Orchestra) and sometimes “Doc Severinsen and the NBC Orchestra”.
Kevin Eubanks believes Jay Leno was caught between a rock and a hard place.
More specifically, between his fans and his employer.
Eubanks, who led NBCs Tonight Show band for 15 years, says, Jay cant fully tell his side of the story ” because that would either compromise his audience or compromise the company he works for. Jay doesnt choose who gets a show and who doesnt.
Eubanks talked to the Daily News about the much-publicized Tonight transition from Leno to Jimmy Fallon while readying for a run this week at Birdland. The gig will promote his new CD, The Messenger.
Jay has delighted millions as host of ˜The Tonight Show for two decades and counting, Eubanks says. Now it seems Jimmy Fallon is tapped to create his own charming style as host of this American iconic late-night staple.
Eubanks goes on: Everyone by now knows how highly I will always regard Jay and what a joy it was to work side by side with him. Of course congrats and best wishes to Jimmy Fallon, who gave me an Xbox when I left ‘The Tonight Show ” to keep me company on the road.
Eubanks, who left Tonight back in 2010, also referred to Fallons Late Night house band. Jimmys got ˜Roots now, Eubanks says slyly, playing on the name of the band. Daily News TV Editor Don Kaplan reports that the Roots will play on the new, Rockefeller Center-based Tonight Show next year.
As the consistent winner in the high-stakes, late-night television ratings game, Leno obviously has his fans. Yet others despise him because of his perceived back-stabbing of fellow late-night hosts.
Eubanks finds it distasteful the way such matters get handled in the media. Anyone working successfully in late-night should be grateful for their success, he declares.
Kevin Eubanks has a new CD, ‘The Messenger.’
Late-night has been one of the most positive developments in TV history, he says, where youre not seeing people get murdered every five minutes. Youre bringing talent to people, music and actors. Its almost like a celebration of American talent. And we should embrace that, instead of turning it into a conflict.
In a way, thats also the meaning behind his Mack Avenue recording The Messenger, which contains nine originals and two covers (John Coltranes Resolution and Jeff Becks Led Boots). The styles reflect an array of instrumental grooves, from funk to African and Latin and rock ” and thats just on the title song alone ” to jazz, ballads and blues.
Eubanks incorporates the talents of his mainstay band members: saxophonist Billy Pierce, bassist Rene Camacho, percussionist Joey De Leon Jr. and Marvin (Smitty) Smith on drums. Smith was Eubanks partner in the Tonight Show band.
Eubanks brothers, Robin and Duane, join the fun on a few songs, respectively, on trombone and trumpet. Alvin Chea of Take 6 guests on the cover tunes with deep bass tones and Al Jarreau-like scats.
A previous Eubanks recording on Mack Avenue, Zen Food, was more set and definitive in the planning and execution, he says. The Messenger, though, was more conversational, collaborative and suggestive.
Though Eubanks never hits you over the head with his intention, hes out to make a social statement. In his many travels, he says, he finds that many people feel compressed and emotionally disconnected ” despite the widespread use of social media and Internet connections.
Eubanks expresses concern that a tie between people and musicians has been broken.
The connection between the artist and the people is a reflection of where the society is, he says. If theres no connection between the artist and the society, what do you have? No voice for the people.
Music is certainly the messenger and always has been, he adds. The message is in you, but whos going to let that message out? Is it going to be the artist?
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Eubanks includes himself in his critique of the state of music and society. We want to be famous and rich, and play our asses off in our little corner, but what about the people next door? Weve lost the mantle of being artists who have a connection to the community. Now you put a CD out and youre an artist.
With this latest recording, Eubanks is striving to help fill a vacuum.
It felt like this record connected things, he says. We all have the same message. Its desperate times and everyone is finding their corner of security, but really our security lies in being able to lean on each other.