Kyle Eastwood - Scoring and touring

When you’ve been brought up listening to jazz at home and being given backstage passes at jazz festivals and clubs due to your father’s influence, there’s a decent chance that your decision to play jazz for a living won’t meet with parental disapproval.

So it was with Kyle Eastwood, whose father, actor-director Clint Eastwood wore his jazz fan credentials openly in producing and directing Bird, the biopic of jazz legend Charlie Parker, in 1988.

Kyle can remember being a very underage customer at Ronnie Scott’s famous jazz club in Soho (“nobody gave me any hassle, although it was kinda late”) and watching the Count Basie Orchestra from the wings at Monterey Jazz Festival as a pre-teen in the mid-1970s. These days when he visits Monterey, which is about five miles from his childhood home in Carmel, he’s likely to be leading his own band, as he’ll be doing at Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival this year.
Jazz wasn’t his first career choice: he studied film for two years but then decided that he wanted to concentrate on playing bass – he plays both bass guitar and double bass – and writing music.

“When I told my father, he was happy about it,” says Kyle, whose mother was a pianist and music teacher. “He even gives me gigs, writing music for films, which I enjoy, although it’s generally different from writing and playing jazz. With films, you’re writing for specific actions, maybe in short sections of music, rather than creating compositions that you can develop with a band. You also have to be in one place for a few weeks at a time, so you can’t really combine touring with a band and working on film music.”

Eastwood’s band has become a popular attraction all over Europe – he’s based in Paris – as well as at home in the US and with a line-up that’s remained settled for five years now, he feels he’s created a real band identity.

“On a lot of the records I liked especially when I was growing up, things like the Miles Davis albums with John Coltrane and Art Blakey’s late 1950s, early 1960s stuff with Wayne Shorter and Lee Morgan, you could hear that the musicians had played together a lot,” he says. “And having my guys together for this length of time has really helped the music develop. You create a certain sound that’s constant and unique to that band and, I think, immediately recognisable.”

For his jazz festival gig Eastwood will be moving up in scale from the venue where he made his Edinburgh debut seven years ago, Henry’s Jazz Cellar, to the Festival Theatre, where his band will appear alongside, and perhaps even with, the world’s leading solo jazz guitarist, Martin Taylor.

“I know Martin, he came to a gig of mine in Pizza Express in London a few years ago and there could be a something we could play together,” he says. “I really like Edinburgh anyway but to play with Martin would be amazing.”

After Edinburgh, Eastwood’s band continues round the European festival circuit before going into the studio in September to record their next album. After that there may be a film project, possibly another one with Eastwood Senior to follow successes including Mystic River and Gran Torino.

So does Clint give Kyle a script and tell him to “make my day” with the movie score?

“He’s actually fun to work with,” says Kyle. “Sometimes he’ll have very set ideas about the kind of thing he’s looking for or he’ll come up with a melody that he’s written and would like to incorporate into the score. But make my day? No, that’s too many words. He’s more likely to say: Impress me!”

From Edinburgh Festivals Magazine, Summer 2012.

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