Bassist Kyle Eastwood aims for a classic sound.
By Neil Tesser
In the liner notes to his seventh album, Time Pieces (Jazz Village), the 46-year-old bassist and composer Kyle Eastwood states that it represents “a return to my ‘jazz’ roots and influences.” It wasn’t that big a leap.
Eastwood’s previous album, 2013’s The View From Here, may have reflected a current interest in African music, but primarily it showed his strong ties to the mid- to late-’60s repertoire of the Miles Davis Quintet, with distinct echoes of the compositions that pianist Herbie Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter wrote for that band. In fact, with the possible exception of 2006’s Now — a contemporary-verging-on-smooth-jazz effort featuring Eastwood songs with words co-composed and sung by Ben Cullum (British jazz star Jamie Cullum’s younger brother) — no listener would confuse any of Eastwood’s recordings with a genre other than jazz. Filled with compact melodies, smart arrangements, beefy solos and pinpoint execution, his recordings constitute a wholly satisfying mesh of modernist attitude and a classicist’s respect for history.
The key to his liner-note statement lies in Eastwood’s quotation marks around the word “jazz.” They signify his focus on the pure stuff, the modern canon — the Rosetta Stone for his own musical dialect. On Time Pieces, he and his longstanding quintet started with a couple of certified jazz standards — Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance” and Horace Silver’s “Blowin’ the Blues Away” — and, in the course of composing new songs to surround those, found themselves exploring a sound and sensibility slightly older than even they had anticipated. “I knew I wanted to record those two tunes because they’d been songs I started putting into the set in the last year or so,” Eastwood explained between sets at Chicago’s venerable Jazz Showcase in April. “Then I started coming up with ideas for other tunes, and being a big Wayne Shorter fan, I guess some of the ideas had that influence as well. I wanted to record some modern standards, and the album took shape from there.”
One of the album’s new originals — attributed to two of Eastwood’s British bandmates, trumpeter Quentin Collins and pianist Andrew McCormack — had no title when the band began recording it. But during the session, in June 2014, they got word that Horace Silver had passed away in Los Angeles, prompting them to dedicate the song — now called “Peace of Silver” — to him. The title provides the most direct indication of Silver’s influence on Eastwood; other new tunes, notably the funky boogaloo “Prosecco Smile” and the rip-roaring “Bullet Train,” suggest that Silver’s influence runs considerably deeper. Silver created cameo masterpieces of jazz songwriting, all muscle and sinew with no fat, that remain hallmarks of his craft more than a half-century after they took shape. And while it would disserve both artists to hold Eastwood to the example of Silver, his own songs have a similarly chiseled, almost lapidarian impact.
Photo Credit: Jean Baptiste Millot