Hubert Eaves

Hubert Eaves is an American keyboardist, composer, and producer who played on numerous jazz-funk and soul recordings during the 1970s and ’80s. As a bandleader, he released the coveted Esoteric Funk LP in 1977.

A home-taught musician, the St. Paul prodigy emerged as sideman to Gary Bartz as part of the saxist’s NTU Troop on the 1973 albums I’ve Known Rivers and Other Bodies and Follow, The Medicine Man. That same year, Eaves lent his talents to saxist Tyrone Washington’s Roots LP and Japanese bassist Teruo Nakamura‘s Unicorn — an all-star project that also features saxist Steve Grossman, trumpeter Charles Sullivan, and drummer’s Alphonse Mouzon and Lenny White.

In the two years that followed, Eaves’ portfolio expanded with credits on albums by flautist Prince Lasha, saxist René McLean, and drummer/arranger Norman Connors. Most notably, the keyboardist graced back-to-back titles by Panamanian saxist Carlos Garnett, including the classic Journey to Enlightenment (1974), which hears the Minneapolis native entwine scales with the brimming six-string talents of Reggie Lucas.

Enlisting Lucas and percussionist Mtume amidst a brass-augmented seven-piece, Eaves entered NYC’s Minot Sounds on May 15–16, 1976, to record his sole album as bandleader. Released the following year, Esoteric Funk bridges serene soundscapes with intense ensemble interplay. Opener “Call to Awareness” embodies the two approaches, starting as an aural sunset of watery Rhodes and breezy trumpet, the latter courtesy of Malachi Thompson. Less than three minutes in, the piece transforms into a nightfall blaze of wind-swept keys and scattered percussion amidst layers of fuzzy fretboard fire.

On “Slow Down,” Eaves meshes ivory elegance with synthetic colors amidst the velvety sonic backdrop of guest-bassist John Lee. “Flead Dancing” engages the feet and ears simultaneous with an uptempo, Moog-pierced pattern that alternately fields clips of staccato brass and controlled fuzz. Resting back into tranquil mode, “Song for Marlene” flows with crystalline synth sustains that reflect like water amidst the glissando-sparkle of ivory — all guided by the coily theme of main-bassist James Benjamin.

Guest-vocalist Cheryl Alexander exercises her range on the plaintive “Under Standing” amidst bare piano accompaniment.

Around the time of the album’s release, Eaves mentored the emerging vocal talents of Phyllis Hyman, arranging and playing on the Philly soulster’s 1977 debut album. Along with cohorts Lucas, Connors, and Mtume, he provided a similar service for soul/funk trio Vitamin E on their lone ’77 longplayer.

During the years that followed, Eaves expanded his resume of jazz-funk credits, including titles by flautist Art Webb, saxist John Stubblefield, and drummer Al Foster. In 1980, Eaves, Lucas, and Mtume roped a cast of studio talent for In Search of the Rainbow Seekers (1980), released under the percussionist’s name.

In the vocalist realm, Eaves further guided Hyman’s career and lent his keys to albums by Stephanie Mills, Rene Scott, and Marc Sadane. With now-established footing in the jazz-funk and soul camps, the keyboardist partnered with composer/vocalist/instrumentalist James “D-Train” Williams for a 1982–84 trio of albums.

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