Kevin Eubanks has guitar, will travel

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Kevin Eubanks is a workaday, touring musician these days, not a TV star. And he's fine with that.

The guitarist best known for leading the band on "The Tonight Show" during much of Jay Leno's tenure brings a trio to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Jazz Concert Hall.

"I never thought of anything else to do" other than music while growing up in Philadelphia, Mr. Eubanks says. His mother was a music teacher, and older brother Robin is a noted trombonist. But his family wasn't the only one. "Everybody had a neighborhood band," Mr. Eubanks says.

Kevin Eubanks
Where: Manchester Craftsmen's Guild Jazz Concert Hall, North Side.
When: 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets: $60 (7 p.m.) and $50 (9:30 p.m.); 412-322-0800,

His only nonmusical dream, he concedes, was playing third base for the Phillies.

After finishing his studies at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Mr. Eubanks toured with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers for about two years, then settled in New York, doing eight albums for the GRP contemporary jazz label. In 1995 he replaced Branford Marsalis in "The Tonight Show" Band, staying until 2010.

Being a traveling musician again has allowed him to see the world. Recently his travels took him to Russia, and he says that the crisis in that country had been overstated in U.S. media. "I just came from there, and it wasn't anything like that," he insists.

So how did he get the gig with Mr. Leno?

"They just asked me to do it," says Mr. Eubanks. "Jay and I got along really well; we worked really well together right off the bat ... . I got to interface with a lot of musicians [on the show]," he says, mentioning Dolly Parton, B.B. King, Willie Nelson and Buddy Guy off the top of his head.

For the Pittsburgh shows Mr. Eubanks will be working with Bill Pierce, who plays tenor and soprano saxophones and heads the woodwind department at Berklee, and bassist Rene Camacho.

"It's more of the energy that the band creates and the intimacy that the band creates -- the music goes so many different places," Mr. Eubanks says. "I think the instrumentation that we have will be appreciated; you get to be intense in a lot of different ways when there's not a drummer there."

He doesn't get much of a chance to play with his brother, "but I think we'll be playing a weekend in Switzerland in the near future."

Correction, posted March 27, 2014: The day of the show has been corrected.

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