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Interview with Kyle Eastwood

7 March 2014 | Guy Smith

“The music business is not in the best of health but there are certainly some great musicians around…”

He may be the son of Clint Eastwood but he has made a name for himself as a fine jazz musician, soundtrack composer and occasional actor. We talked to Kyle Eastwood just before he headed off on a US tour…

London Calling: Many reviews of your 2013 album The View From Here noted its timeless quality, that it could have been recorded in any of the last four decades. Was that deliberate?

Kyle Eastwood: Not necessarily. It was a collective band effort. We’ve been playing together for 7 or 8 years now, we write tunes at rehearsals and even on the road. So not deliberate on my part, it was just what naturally came out of the collaborative effort.

LC: It has the feel of a classic Blue Note record to me.

KE: Thanks. I grew up with Blue Note records, they were played in the house all the time so I guess there’s some of that in there. 

LC: How do the US and European jazz scenes compare? I think the European inferiority complex is disappearing now.

KE: I think that’s true. I don’t like to think in terms of US or European music. I consider myself a musician, not just a jazz musician. I like R&B, Pop, anything done well. I went through a lot of phases as a young musician, listening to different types of music and embracing them all. Right now, on my iPod you’ll find Benny Goodman, Bob Marley, Björk, some R&B…

LC: So do you think jazz generally is in a good state of health?

KE: I think there’s a good audience for it and a lot of good players. The music business is not in the best of health but there are certainly some great musicians around.

LC: I ask because there have been articles written about the so-called ‘death of jazz’, how it has become ‘heritage music’. Musicians feeling they need to align themselves with another genre to be accepted, such as hip hop or covers of indie tunes. I’m thinking of Robert Glasper, Brad Mehldau…

KE: Does it cheapen jazz? I don’t think so. Done well and in an interesting way it can be fine.

LC: Have you heard Robert Glasper’s version of Smells Like Teen Spirit?

KE: No. Is it good? I like Robert Glasper and that’s a cool tune so I will definitely check it out.

LC: How did you come to have an all-British band?

KE: It must be about 8 or 9 years ago, I was working with some British musicians in Paris. I then moved to London for about a year and through my connections met the band while playing at places like the 606 Club and Pizza Express. We hit it off and have been playing together, on and off, ever since.

LC: You have recorded several film scores in the past few years. Is this an interesting distraction between albums or something you would like to do more of?

KE: I have a couple of projects I’m working on at the moment, including a documentary for Jersey Boys. It’s a totally different type of discipline - sitting in front of a laptop for hours on end - but I enjoy the challenge of it.

LC: What was the first album that made you think, “this is what I want to do!” And do you still have it?

KE: I studied piano at 6 or 7 years old and I didn’t necessarily think I’d be a musician. I started bass in my teens, playing Motown, Led Zeppelin, everything. I’m not sure I can pin it down to one record. James Jamerson from [Marvin Gaye’s] What’s Going On? was a big influence, I guess.

LC: Could you name a top 3 of bass players who have influenced you?

KE: Paul Chambers - I listened to him when I was young and transcribed his music. James Jamerson. John Paul Jones. Ray Brown. Dave Holland. Mingus. Oscar Pettiford.

LC: Are there any up-and-coming Parisian musicians you can recommend?

KE: I haven’t played with many of the young players so far. Manu Katché is great. The Belmondo brothers [Lionel and Stéphane]. Wow, I can’t think…

LC: I was in Paris a couple of years ago and stumbled upon Le Houdon Jazz Bar near Abbesses. It was Saturday evening and there was a band mid-set playing for their lives. The saxophonist was David Sauzay.

KE: I know David! He played on Paris Blue [Kyle’s 2004 album], he’s a great musician and a lovely man.

LC: After the Spring tour, what’s next for you?

KE: Going into the studio mid-June to record another album. It will be the same band but possibly with Ernesto Simpson on drums this time.

The Kyle Eastwood Band play Ronnie Scott’s on Tuesday 1st April – Thursday 3rd April. Tickets are £30 – £47.50, available here.

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