Kevin Eubanks

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Kevin Eubanks
Kevin Eubanks 2011.jpg
Eubanks performing at the 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival
Background information
Birth name Kevin Tyrone Eubanks
Born (1957-11-15) November 15, 1957 (age 59)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Genres Jazz, rock
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1982–present
Labels Mack Avenue
Associated acts The Tonight Show Band, Branford Marsalis

Kevin Tyrone Eubanks (born November 15, 1957 in Philadelphia) is an American jazz and fusion guitarist and composer who was the leader of the Tonight Show Band with host Jay Leno from 1995 to 2010. He also led the Primetime Band on the short-lived The Jay Leno Show.

Kevin Eubanks and Obed Calvaire with Dave Holland Trio at Vossajazz 2016.

Personal background[edit]

Eubanks was born into a musical family. His mother, Vera Eubanks, is a gospel and classical pianist and organist. His uncle, Ray Bryant, was a jazz pianist. His older brother, Robin Eubanks, is a trombonist, and his younger brother Duane Eubanks is a trumpeter. Two cousins are also musicians, the late bassist David Eubanks and the pianist Charles Eubanks. Kevin studied violin and trumpet before settling on the guitar.

As an elementary school student, Eubanks was trained in violin, trumpet, and piano at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. He later attended Berklee College of Music in Boston and then moved to New York to begin his professional career.

Eubanks is a pescetarian and maintains a diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, egg whites, and fish.[1] He is also an avid fan of Philadelphia sports teams. He once lost a bet on the Philadelphia 76ers, and he was forced to eat a corn dog when he lost. In 2007, he was voted PETA's "World's Sexiest Vegetarian Man".[2]


Kevin Eubanks at Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, Half Moon Bay CA Oct. 1988.

After Eubanks moved to New York, he began performing with noted jazzmen such as Art Blakey (1980–81), Roy Haynes, Slide Hampton and Sam Rivers. Like his brother Robin, he has played on record with double bassist Dave Holland.[3] In 1983, while continuing to perform with others, he formed his own quartet, playing gigs in Jordan, Pakistan, and India on a tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department.


His first recording as a leader, Guitarist, was released on the Elektra label when Eubanks was 25 years old. It led to a seven-album contract with the GRP label and four albums for Blue Note. In total, Eubanks has appeared on over 100 albums. In 2001, he founded the label Insoul Music on which he has released six albums.


Eubanks has taught at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Canada, at Rutgers University, and at the Charlie Parker School in Perugia, Italy. In 2005, Eubanks received an honorary doctorate degree from his alma mater, Berklee College of Music. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and has served as an active member of the Artistic Advisory Panel of the BMI Foundation since 1999.

The Tonight Show[edit]

In 1992, Eubanks moved to the West Coast to assume the guitar spot in The Tonight Show Band. At this time, he composed The Tonight Show with Jay Leno's closing theme music, "Kevin's Country".[4] In 1995, Eubanks replaced Branford Marsalis to become the leader of The Tonight Show Band. He served in this capacity from 1995 to 2010.

When NBC moved Leno's show from late night to primetime (10PM in the Eastern time zone), Eubanks moved with the band to continue conducting the music for the short-lived The Jay Leno Show. Eubanks appeared on the new show as The Primetime Band. It was announced on February 16, 2010 that Eubanks would only be returning for a short time as band leader when Jay Leno began his second tenure on The Tonight Show.[5]

On April 12, 2010, Eubanks announced on the show that he would be leaving The Tonight Show following its 18th season.[6] His last show was on Friday, May 28, 2010. Eubanks indicated in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer that he wanted to refocus on music, adding that his leaving was not provoked by any problems with Leno or NBC.[7] Following his departure from The Tonight Show, Eubanks began touring with band mate Marvin "Smitty" Smith on drums and Bill Pierce on sax.

On February 21, 2013, Eubanks had a performance slot on The Tonight Show, and then joined Leno for an interview.

Television appearances[edit]

Eubanks has appeared on various TV shows such as Hollywood Squares, V.I.P., Muppets Tonight, Girlfriends, Longshot, Days of Our Lives and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He has written four feature film scores.[8]


On his website, Eubanks states his preference for Abe Rivera guitars, Mesa/Boogie amplifiers and D'Addario guitar strings.[9]


Kevin Eubanks in 1978

As leader[edit]

  • Guitarist (Elektra Musician, 1983)
  • Sundance (GRP, 1984)
  • Opening Night (GRP, 1985)
  • Face to Face (GRP, 1986)
  • Heat of Heat (GRP, 1987)
  • Shadow Prophets (GRP, 1988)
  • The Searcher (GRP, 1989)
  • Promise of Tomorrow (GRP, 1990)
  • Turning Point (Blue Note, 1992)
  • Spirit Talk (Blue Note, 1993)
  • Spirit Talk 2 – Revelations (Blue Note, 1994)
  • with Mino Cinelu and Dave Holland: World Trio (Intuition, 1995)
  • Live at Bradley's (Blue Note, 1996)
  • The Best of Kevin Eubanks (GRP, 1996)
  • Live (Insoul, 2001)
  • Shrine (Insoul, 2002)
  • Angel (Insoul, 2003)
  • Slow Freight (Insoul, 2003)
  • Genesis (Insoul, 2003)
  • Soweto Sun (Insoul, 2006)
  • Zen Food (Mack Avenue, 2010)
  • The Messenger (Mack Avenue, 2012)
  • East West Time Line (Mack Avenue, 2017)

As co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]


  1. ^ Falcon, Mike (November 4, 2002). "Kevin Eubanks beefs up without meat". USA Today. 
  2. ^ "Jay Leno's Tonight Show Rally Takes Band Leader to the Top; Tens of Thousands of Votes Cast at for Celebrities Who Exude Both Passion and Compassion". Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  3. ^ Scott Yanow. "Kevin Eubanks". AllMusic. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  4. ^ "LIGHTS, CAMERA, REACTION! KEVIN EUBANKS" Archived October 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., International Musician, July 2007
  5. ^ Kevin Eubanks to Leave the Tonight Show[dead link]
  6. ^ [1] Archived April 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Chinen, Nate (May 30, 2010). "Sidekick No More: Eubanks Starts Post-Leno Life". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ "Kevin Eubanks". Internet Movie DataBase. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  9. ^ [2] Archived March 29, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Branford Marsalis
The Tonight Show bandleader
Succeeded by
Max Weinberg
Preceded by
Max Weinberg
The Tonight Show bandleader
Succeeded by
Rickey Minor