Most of Dangerous Kitchen's six members have jazz backgrounds, and it's no exaggeration to say that each is a master of his instrument. Founder/bassist/songwriter/lyricist Dan Eubanks says, "I have been playing around here [St. Louis] long enough to know the guys that would be in my dream band of great local musicians if I could put it together, and this is pretty much it. One of the benefits of jazz is, the people that you meet, musician-wise, are great, great players." It's no wonder they cover a few tunes by Steely Dan, a group famous for its roster of gifted jazz musicians and for smooth-polished R&B.
Dangerous Kitchen has been playing around town for the last six years. The group is fond of originals and covers of "old-school funk and '60s and '70s R&B, with some jazz fusion thrown in," says Eubanks. Those covers include tunes by Stevie Wonder, Bobby Womack, Professor Longhair, Curtis Mayfield, Al Greene, Sly Stone, Tower of Power, John Scofield, Maceo Parker, Otis Redding, Dr. John, Ray Charles and the Meters.
The group benefits from the presence of both a drummer, Andy Marks, and a percussionist, Christopher Fabick, who sets up a cockpit of exotic instruments in concert. Both Eubanks and ace guitarist Dave Black are adjunct faculty members in the music departments of local universities, and both play in a jumble of other configurations, such as jazz combos. Pete Ruthenburg plays the keyboard, which he tweaks to get those Fender Rhodes and Hammond B3 sounds, among others, and local children's storyteller Blake Travis sings lead.
At a recent show at the Venice Café, the Kitchen played a four-hour, three-set gig in the oven-hot front room. The band was crammed into a truly tiny space, but that didn't seem to affect their music. The players opened up and took extended solos in some of the songs, allowing Black and Ruthenburg, in particular, to show off.
The crowd filled the small space, and there wasn't much room to dance, but a few in the audience couldn't help themselves. By the end of the third set, you could see the knowledge in the faces of everyone here: this band was clean, tight and in the pocket -- hearing them was like running your hand down the side of a new black Porsche.
Dangerous Kitchen is different from most area funk bands because the group plays so much good soul and R&B. It's different from other R&B bands because its members have jazz chops. It's different from most bands, period, because Eubanks can write great songs. After six years, the band is still something of a well-kept secret, and that ain't right.