Kyle Eastwood, 38-year-old bass-player son of Clint, is something of a curiosity on our shores. Firstly, there's the interest in his lineage; he wears it attractively lightly, acknowledging it with a wry smile when a member of the audience calls out "play the theme from Dirty Harry". Then there's the fact that Eastwood lives in Paris, so is only here from time to time.
More than that, however, is what sets his band apart from others. Eastwood, who switches effortlessly between double and electric basses, favours a musical style foreign to most UK jazz venues. The core of his compositions starts with slow, synth-like chords from Michael Stevens' guitar, over which Eastwood might keen on echoing bowed bass. A chill-out lounge drum sample heralds the main section; then, with Eastwood now on electric bass, the horn section of Graeme Flowers and Graeme Blevins on trumpet and tenor sax kicks in to a series of tight riffs.
With strong hints of Incognito, but more firmly anchored in the fusion tradition, the result comes closer to smooth jazz than most UK acts would dare. That shiny patina of production comes naturally to an American such as Eastwood, but can be viewed as beingoverly commercial by Europeans. If, on the other hand, "smooth" bands had a fraction of the integrity of Eastwood's group, "smooth" would not be such a dirty word. Eastwood's compositions are reminiscent of the best of another bass maestro, Stanley Clarke, with shades of the unsettling backdrops that yet another bassist-leader, Marcus Miller, penned for Miles Davis in the Eighties.
His sidemen are terrific. Flowers has a blaring confidence on trumpet, Blevins a nicely chewy tone; and the name of Andrew McCormack, a pianist who won the Rising Star category at last year's BBC Jazz Awards, is one that is going to become ever-more familiar to us. The leader is no slouch either, showing great proficiency and excellent intonation on both instruments.
One problem with the gig at the Jazz Café, however, was the consistency of material. The approach detailed above seems to be what comes naturally to Eastwood; it works triumphantly, even when extended to a Forties tune like "Big Noise From Winnetka". But a couple of numbers stood out for the wrong reasons - a funky tune that sounded like the JBs had popped in for a jam, and a rock vocal (sung perfectly well by Michael Stevens) that seemed out of place.
There's nothing wrong with playing many musical styles if you're a function band. But a serious group has to create a distinctive sound. Eastwood has that in his spacey compositions. He should stick to them.Reuse content