THERE’S MUCH TO READ
THE TITLE OF KYLE Eastwood’s latest CD, The
View From Here. The 45-year-old bassist/ composer has certainly had
a unique career, gaining cult status as much for being the son of film icon
Clint Eastwood as for the six sturdy solo CDs he has released since 1998.
That’s just fine with Eastwood, a friendly but taciturn sort who has
never sought fame or a high profile, and lets his music do the talking.
Reflected in the disc’s 11 tracks is Eastwood’s lifelong
liaison with jazz and cinema (he has composed or contributed to the scores of
five of his father’s films), and his longtime European home base.
From ballad to burner, his quintet’s two-horn front line evokes stark
imagery contrasted by the world music colors splashed about by his savvy rhythm
section. On the bottom, Eastwood moves deftly from electric to upright, as the
music dictates, thoughtful in support, expressive in solos, and, like his
bandmates, always yearning to explore.
Born on May 19, 1968 in Los Angeles, and raised in Carmel-by-the-Sea,
California, Kyle Eastwood had his initial encounter with bass and music when
dad taught him a boogie-woogie bass line on piano, leading to formal lessons
and then to guitar (for a role in his father’s film
Honkytonk Man). He didn’t return to bass until
high school, when his friends needed a bass player. Purchasing a Japanese
P-Bass copy, he dug into the grooves of Motown, Memphis/Stax, James Brown, Led
Zeppelin, and reggae. Soon after, his deep love of jazz—bornw from
regular trips to the nearby Monterey Jazz Festival as a
child—resulted in him taking on upright bass, as well. Lessons with
Ray Brown and Bunny Brunel solidified his musicianship, and although he entered
USC to study film, his passion for music won out. He left school, formed his
own jazz band in L.A., and eventually moved to New York City, as he began his
Your new CD has a noticeable
rhythmic focus and seems to
be more of a collaborative effort.
The rhythmic aspect wasn’t conscious, but it’s
probably the result of my listening to a lot of North and West African music of
late, as well as having traveled to South Africa to research music for [the
film] Invictus. I wrote “Une Nuit Au
Senegal” after immersing myself in Senegalese music, and
is built on a hand-drum loop inspired by listening to Middle Eastern and Asian
hand drummers. The title track started as a rhythmic idea; I envisioned it as a
Wayne Shorter type of tune, with a busy bass line and groove contrasted by a
simple, long-tone melody in the horns.
The CD is more collaborative. I came up with
sketches and ideas for the songs, and then I got together with my pianist,
Andrew McCormack, and we fleshed them out further. Then we brought them to
rehearsals and soundchecks where the horn players added some parts and melodies
to help us finish them up. I’ve been fortunate to have a great
London-based band for six or seven years now, and I write with them in mind.
The entire CD was recorded live, except for us editing out one chorus of a song
because it was too long.
For your last three solo records, you seem to have
dialed in on a signature sound, featuring a two-horn
Yes, it’s what I’ve been working on and developing
the past six years. I’ve always loved the two-horn sound, from Miles
Davis’ bands in the ’50s and early ’60s, and Art
Blakey & the Jazz Messengers. I like the challenge of writing for two
horns; you can imply and cover quite a bit of harmony and get some interesting
sounds if you pick the right two notes. As much as I enjoy records that are
bass-tastic, featuring the instrument in all kinds of technical ways, for me it
has always been important to have a good balance of composition and
improvisation that features all of the instruments in the band.
There’s a cinematic quality to your
as well. “The Promise” needs a great movie behind
Yeah, I thought that, too [laughs]. Again,
it’s not a conscious choice, but from studying and being around a lot
of great film music, and writing for film, it seeps in there naturally. Writing
a score can be a bit more restrictive because you’re composing for
what’s onscreen, and there are edits you have to make that are not
natural musically, but we’ve adapted some of my film pieces in the
band. Andrew and I wrote “The Promise” on piano and bass at
my apartment, and it had more of a Spanish, Paco de Lucia flavor, but it took a
different direction when we added the full band.
What’s your composing
Generally I write at the piano, trying to come up with a chord
progression, or a melodic or rhythmic motif. I wrote “Song for
M.E.,” which is for my mother, Maggie, on electric bass utilizing
open strings; then we finished it as a band. I like the collaboration aspect
because it gets you outside of your box. It’s inspiring to bring an
to someone and see how they interpret it and take it somewhere that’s
not exactly where you were thinking of going. It’s a more deliberate
version of what happens onstage, when you’re supporting and
dialoguing with the soloist.
How do you come up with bass parts and decide whether to
play electric or acoustic bass on a song?
Typically, I have a chord progression and I cycle it and see what
develops when I play along. Other parts are more composed, with Andrew doubling
the bass line with his left hand on piano. As for choosing which instrument, I
can usually hear either one working on most tunes, and I often try both; I
could have played “From Rio to Havana” on upright. I kind
of let the song and the groove decide. If it swings, I tend toward the upright,
and if it’s in the R&B realm I’ll think
electric—but I also love playing funk on upright, as I did on
“Route de la Buissonne.”
Do you favor electric or acoustic bass, and what have
you brought to each instrument from the other?
Having split my time on both over the past six years or so, I love
them equally; I like having the different colors to apply. Although I started
on electric, there was a point in my early jazz bands in L.A. and when I lived
in New York, when I was playing upright 95% of the time; now it’s
50/50. Much of the transference for me has been bringing electric bass concepts
to the upright, like playing 16th-notebased funk lines with a sharper attack
and short note duration. Conversely, working to get a sound out of my hands for
upright has affected my tone and touch on the electric. In a broader sense,
it’s all about the function of the instrument—playing with
the drummer and making the groove happen, first and foremost.
Who are the important influences for you on upright and
electric bass, and who are some of your current
On electric it was James Jamerson, Duck Dunn, Chuck Rainey, Paul
Jackson, John Paul Jones; then of course, Jaco, Stanley Clarke on both
instruments, my teacher, Bunny Brunel, Anthony Jackson, Jimmy Johnson. For the
upright, obviously Ray Brown, whom I studied with, Ron Carter, Paul Chambers,
Israel Crosby, Oscar Pettiford, Mingus, Scott LaFaro, Dave Holland—I
used to transcribe their lines. More recently, I’ve been into Avashai
Cohen—I like his playing and writing—and Esperanza Spalding
and Marcus Miller.
How would you describe your dad’s musical
influence on you?
He, along with my mom, brought music into my life and gave me my love
of music, from the piano we had in the house and the classic jazz and blues
records he would play, to bringing me to the Monterey Jazz Festival, where I
got to see and meet so many jazz greats. I can remember watching the Count
Basie Big Band from backstage, near the drummer, and being drawn to the rhythm
section. Throughout my development, my dad has always been encouraging and
supportive of my music career, and he comes to see the band if we’re
in the same city. Our schedules haven’t matched up of late, but
he’s due to start another film project later this year and eventually
we’ll work on the music for it.
You’ve been living in Paris for a
It’s an amazing city and there are a lot of great
opportunities to play at festivals and clubs throughout Europe. The rail travel
is very together, so you don’t have to deal with airports all the
time. And the audiences are more open to different kinds of music, especially
jazz, which they love. As a result, top musicians from all over the world come
to live in Europe, which is a great learning opportunity for me.
What’s ahead for you?
The rest of this year is pretty much devoted to promoting and
supporting my CD, finishing my U.S. dates, and then touring Europe and Japan.
Going forward, I hope to keep doing what I do—writing and releasing
music, growing as a bassist and a composer, and making a living as a musician.
For me, it’s the greatest job in the world.
KYLE EASTWOOD APPROACHES HIS bass lines,
support lines behind soloists, and his solos with a composer’s
sensibility, making melody and subtle harmonic and rhythmic variation
ever-present, welcome ingredients. Examples 1a and 1b are taken from
Kyle’s budding bass guitar anthem “Hot Box,” from
his 2009 CD, Metropolitain. He remembers,
“[Drummer] Martyn Kaine and I were jamming in his London studio,
thinking about the Headhunters and the Meters. I came up with a line that ended
up being the bass part and the melody.” Example
1a shows the A section line (complete with a Paul Jackson-esque
hammer in bar 2). For the B section, shown in Ex.
1b, Kyle varies the line slightly to fit the harmony, and later
drops down an octave and stretches a bit behind a keyboard solo over the same
chord change. He advises, “The line perpetually feels like it wants
to get faster, so you actually need to sit back a bit.”
Example 2 shows the two-bar main upright
bass line of “The Way Home,” from The View From
Here. Says Kyle, “We cycled the groove and I came up with
this ostinato. It has that tricky little pause at the end of the first measure,
which makes the downbeat of bar 2 feel a bit awkward because so many of the
other notes are pushed. Keep repeating the phrase until it feels
Examples 3a and 3b are from “Une Nuit Au
Sénégal,” on The View From
Here. To open the track and at two later points, Kyle plays a
fourbar double-stop figure on his 5-string, as shown in Ex. 3a.
Example 3b contains the main bass line, doubled by pianist
Andrew McCormack, as it’s heard in the solo sections. For both, Kyle
notes, “The key with West African grooves like this is that the space
between the notes is very exacting, and has to be in just the right place for
the feel to work; the rests are as important as the notes. Listen to West
African musicians play 12/8 feels, and try to breathe like that
Kyle Eastwood, The View From Here [Jazz Village,
2013], Songs From the Chateau [Mack Avenue, 2011],
Metropolitain [Rendezvous, 2009];
Invictus (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [Milan,
2009]; Gran Torino (Original Theme Song From the Motion
Picture) [New Line, 2007]; Letters From Iwo Jima (Music
from the Motion Picture) [Milan, 2007]; Paris Blue
Electric basses “I play fretted
and fretless 5-strings that are custom protoypes designed by Bunny Brunel; they
were built by Roger Geffen over 20 years ago for a series Gibson was going to
produce, that didn’t happen. I have two, and Bunny has a couple.
They’re active, with Bartolini P/J pickups; I’ve gotten so
used to them, and I haven’t found anything I like better.”
Strings La Bella M42B Hard Rockin’
Upright basses Czech-Ease travel bass with Gage
Realist pickup system, French-style bow, and La Bella Steel Core strings;
70-year-old Pöllmann (3/4-size)
Rig Phil Jones Suitcase Combo and 4B extension
Effects DigiTech BP-200 Bass Multi- Effects
Processor (for reverb and EQ)
Recording The View From Here
Bass guitars direct through a tube D.I. and a miked Phil Jones Suitcase Combo;
Czech-Ease direct via the Realist and live via two mics (by the bridge and by
the ƒ-hole on the G-string side)