What attracted him to jazz? Eastwood muses for a moment before answering: “I guess just the freedom really; playing and expressing yourself and also dialoguing with musicians and getting lost in the moment. I think that’s why most musicians get into jazz really.”
But to trace the origin of Kyle Eastwood’s passion for music you have to go right back to his childhood. “As far as my earliest memories of music, my parents listened to a lot of Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck,” reveals the bassist. “And some of the Miles Davis/Gil Evans records bring me back to my childhood years: that’s what my parents were listening to when I was very, very young. My parents listened predominantly to jazz with the odd blues record and a little Johnny Cash.”
Eastwood’s father – once a budding musician himself before movie stardom beckoned – instructed his son in the raw rudiments of making music. “My father taught me a little bit of what he knew,” reveals the bass player. “He was mainly self-taught. He started showing me the left-hand parts, the bass parts, actually, and then he would teach me blues progressions and stuff like that. So that was what he showed me at first. My father always has a piano in the house and he still plays and my mother used to play but doesn’t play piano so much anymore but she still plays the ukulele.”
Music, evidently, then, is in Kyle Eastwood’s genes. He shares with his father (pictured below) a love for the Monterey Jazz Festival, which is still a big event in the jazz calendar. “It was just about 15 minutes down the road from where I grew up,” he says and vividly recalls the first time he went – it was 1976, he was eight-years-old and the legendary Count Basie was on the bill: “That was pretty much the first live music concert I remember going to. Count Basie was still alive and was playing with the band. So I remember being really impressed by that because it was quite a swinging, powerful, big-band and then I remember watching part of the show from the audience and then going and watching the last half of it from the side of the stage, near the drummer actually – and that’s when I got into drums.”
Also, because of his father’s movie star status, he had an opportunity to meet some jazz giants: “I met Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie out there at the festival. At some of them I was just a little kid kind of running around probably, but I got a chance to meet some of them.”
In addition to writing and performing jazz, Eastwood’s versatility as a musician is evidenced by his role as a soundtrack composer. “It’s a completely different thing,” he says. “You’re writing something that’s meant to complement something that’s on the screen. It’s a little more restrictive than making a jazz album and writing music for yourself but it’s a different kind of challenge. There’s a lot of sitting behind the computer and editing and trying to see what fits and what doesn’t so it’s a different process. But it’s fun, doing it.”
There was a point earlier in Eastwood’s life when it looked like he would follow his father into the world of films. As a teenager he studied film for a while at university: “For a short stint I was at USC for a year as a film major but I was doing music courses as well. Right at that time – I was about 18 or 19 – I started leaning more towards music really thinking that was what I really loved the most so I just decided to take a year off of school and just started studying with a couple of teachers privately and studying bass. And then I started working with some bands and musicians in Los Angeles and it was just to see where I was at the end of that year … and I never went back (laughs). I think it was 1987.”
So how did his father feel about his decision to quit college and become a musician? “I think if you’d asked him when he was in his twenties what he wanted to do he probably would’ve told you he wanted to be a piano player. So he’s happy that I’ve found something that I really love to do and I’m serious about. He’s always been encouraging and supportive.”
With six solo albums under his belt and a raft of movie soundtracks, Kyle Eastwood isn’t content to rest on his laurels. “There’s always new things to do and different people to play with,” he says.
“I think you learn different things from playing with different musicians and you play differently when you play with musicians who play in different styles so I’m always open to playing with different people or trying another musical genre.” Certainly, as a musician, Eastwood doesn’t confine himself to the jazz world – his listening tastes prove that. “I listen to all kinds of music,” he says and then reels off the names of some of the artists that are currently in rotation on his i-Pod: “Everything from Count Basie to Bjork and Led Zeppelin to Radiohead and all kinds of classical music and jazz. I love music in general. If it’s good it doesn’t matter what sort of label they put on it or what genre it is. If it’s good and musically interesting then I’m into it.”
As for his next project, Eastwood is understandably vague. After all, there are myriad tour dates to fit in before he can contemplate entering the recording studio again. But something that might be on the horizon – though it’s a long way off still – is a large ensemble project. Says Eastwood: “we were talking about maybe trying to do a concert with orchestrated versions of some of my original jazz compositions and then doing some film music as well. So that’s a project I might work on in the next year or two.”
KYLE EASTWOOD’S ‘The View From Here’ is out now on Jazz Village.
Read SJF’s review of ‘The View From Here’: http://soulandjazzandfunk.com/reviews/2149-kyle-eastwood-the-view-from-here-jazz-village.html