His remarkably facile fingerstyle-and-thumb six-string approach caused Eubanks to be touted in the early 80s as “the next Wes Mongtomery.” Several impressive albums over the next two decades showed promise, notably 1982’s The Guitarist and 1993’s excellent Spirit Talk. Zen Food is the guitarist’s first recording since becoming musical director in 1995 for “The Tonight Show,” a post he left in May this year.
A die-hard fusion fan from his Berklee days, Eubanks reflects his love of the Mahavishnu Orchestra in “The Dancing Sea,” the exhilarating opener driven by drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith. “Spider Monkey Café” is a catchy offering full of Eubanks’ signature intervallic leaps and smooth Wes-styled octaves. He switches to steel-string acoustic on “The Dirty Monk,” a suite-like number featuring muscular tenor sax from Bill Piece. “Los Angeles” travels from smooth jazz cool to turbulent burn while the aggressively swinging “6/8” has Eubanks blowing over the changes with boppish authority. “G.G” is an atmospheric groover and “Das It” is a frantic duet with Smith’s whirlwind drumming. For something completely different, Eubanks turns in a lyrical take on the Catholic psalm, “Adoration,” tempering his dazzling guitar-hero chops with gentle sentiment.