It can’t be easy being the offspring of a Hollywood legend but KYLE EASTWOOD – the son of celebrated movie actor/director, Clint Eastwood – appears to carry that apparent burden with a nonchalant ease. Initially famous for being the only scion of an iconic film star – and therefore regarded as bona fide Tinsel Town royalty – California-born Eastwood, now 45, is an established jazz musician and movie composer. True, some of Eastwood’s soundtrack work has come courtesy of his father (such as ‘Mystic River,’ ‘Letters From Iwo Jima’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby’) but with a series of accomplished and varied jazz-oriented solo albums to his name, the affable bassist/composer has steadily been making a name for himself on his own terms. Even so, some interviewers – especially those who write for lifestyle magazines – seem less concerned with Eastwood’s music and more preoccupied with his family lineage, though that’s natural, perhaps, given that the bass player’s love affair with jazz was a result of his father’s enthusiasm for the idiom.
Having just released his sixth album – the excellent ‘The View From Here’ on the Jazz Village label – Eastwood is just finishing up his UK tour and has a trip to Japan scheduled for July. After a week-long stint at Ronnie Scott’s, where he’s a top-drawer attraction and always plays to packed houses – he and his band turned up to play a one-off gig at the newly refurbished Regal Cinema in Evesham, a small market town in rural Worcestershire that seems a world away from Hollywood. Just prior to the sound check, SJF’s Charles Waring grabbed a few moments with Kyle to talk about his life, music and career…
“Sorry, I’ve got a little bit of a hay fever thing going,” confesses Kyle Eastwood, who then pauses to blow his nose. “I find I’m a little more nasal than usual: it’s not just the American accent,” he laughs. Taking a break from the sound check and relaxing in a large red swivel armchair in the deserted downstairs part of a large cinema, Eastwood is softly-spoken and seemingly easy going, giving the impression of someone who’s comfortable in his own skin. The fact that he’s well-travelled might be a contributing factor to his sense of savoir faire. His new album has received good reviews and he’s now playing gigs all over the world – from England to continental Europe and his native USA – in support of it.
Does he enjoy being on the road? “The travelling gets a little bit weary sometimes,” he explains, “but I love playing so that comes with the territory. I think playing live is musically the most satisfying but I like working in the studio and writing music for film and all those other facets of making music. But I think playing with musicians and playing live is wonderful.”
On ‘The View From Here’ Eastwood draws on his soundtrack composer’s gift to create imagery and atmosphere with music – in fact, the album is almost the musical equivalent of a travelogue and is characterised by many exotic song titles that depict places around the globe; such as ‘From Rio To Havana,’ ‘Sirroco,’ ‘Luxor,’ and ‘Une Nuit Au Senegal’ – the latter replete with infectious African musical inflexions. Does he draw inspiration from the places he’s visited? “Yeah, that’s always been an inspiration for me, hearing music from other countries and other cultures. I’ve always found myself inspired to write after a period of travelling.”
As a musician on the road, Eastwood leads a nomadic life; travelling from gig to gig, city to city, and country to country. But California is no longer his home, though his roots remain there. “I live in Paris,” discloses the bassist. “I’ve lived in Europe for I guess almost seven years and I spent about a year and a half in the UK, in London. Paris is nice: it’s a big city but it still has a kind of village vibe to it. I like the pace of life there. I play quite a bit of the year in Europe. It’s a nice, central, base.”
Stylistically, Eastwood’s new album continues with the cool, acoustic jazz vibe of his previous record, ‘Songs From The Châteaux.’ It also features the same band, with saxophonist Graeme Blevins and trumpeter Graeme Flowers combining to make a striking horn section, with drummer Martyn Kaine linking with Eastwood to form a kinetic rhythm section. Arguably the band’s lynchpin is noted jazz pianist, Andrew McCormack. He’s been collaborating with Eastwood for several years now and his input was crucial on the new album. Says Eastwood: “He has a great sense of playing melodically but listening really well and playing off the others. Once you play with people enough you hopefully get to that point where things become telepathic. That’s the beauty, I guess, of jazz music when it happens right.”
Though Eastwood’s the undoubted star of the show, his new album reflects a democratic ethos and relies on significant contributions from all of the band members. “It’s pretty much a collaborative effort with the band,” he states. “Andrew (McCormack) and I got together and came up with a bunch of ideas and then collaborated, the two of us at first, in Paris at my place. We worked on some of the tunes together and then we brought the rest of the tunes in various forms to some of the horn players and the other members of the band and we worked them out at rehearsals, started playing them at sound checks and started working them into the set.”
And the significance of the album’s title? “I guess ‘The View From Here’ is where I happen to be right now in my own musical journey or development and hopefully I’ve grown as a player and a composer – but there’s always room for improvement.”
As bass players go, Eastwood’s something of a virtuoso – he can play funky slapped licks on the electric bass a la Marcus Miller but is also adroit on the stand-up acoustic double bass and uses a bow as well to play melodies and create effects. But, surprisingly, perhaps, Eastwood didn’t begin playing music on the bass: “I started on piano and got really interested in bass and drums. After that, I guess when I was about ten or eleven, I started playing some drums a little but my parents – for some reason (he laughs at the recollection) – didn’t want to buy a drum kit. I’d taken piano for while and then just picked up the electric bass and started teaching myself. It just came naturally really. So I started getting really into bass players. I started just figuring out Motown tunes, R&B stuff, reggae and all kinds of stuff like that. That was the kind of early stuff I started teaching myself to do. James Jamerson (legendary Motown bass player) was definitely an influence.”
It was later on, a few years later, that he gravitated towards the acoustic double bass and playing jazz. “It was when I started studying bass properly. I was always interested in jazz. When I started to learn and actually play jazz I got myself an acoustic double bass and focused on that for a few years. Now I kind of go back and forth (between the acoustic and electric bass) but I had a bunch of years just playing acoustic.”