Review: Kyle Eastwood’s new album ‘Timepieces’, by Philip Dodd

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The son of legendary actor Clint Eastwood, virtuoso bassist and composer Kyle Eastwood releases his new album, ‘Timepieces’ on 21 April 2015

Jazz bassist Kyle Eastwood and his band are playing the Music Room, Pizza Express Maidstone on Saturday 25 April as part of a UK tour off the back of his latest album, ‘Timepieces’. As the title suggests, it’s a kind of timescape surveying his musical influences and experiences.

Eastwood’s parents were jazz fans and both talented pianists (including Kyle’s father Clint – yes, indeed, that Clint – who has long been a jazz afficionado) and he grew up listening to their records, going to festivals and gigs in the Bay Area, and meeting members of the jazz aristocracy along the way. He has described ‘Timepieces’ as something of “a return to my jazz roots and influences” but this is far more than a tribute album. It is a tour d’horizon of a whole range of musical influences, gravitationally centred around the talents of Kyle and his band.

So there is a hard bop blast as they cover Horace Silver’s ‘Blowin’ The Blues Away’ – hot, bubbling, with artfully judged solos that are high-powered but articulate and graceful. In a later track they return the favour to Horace Silver with their original number ‘Peace of Silver’, dedicated to the pianist, who passed away while they were in the recording studio.

But the energy of ‘Blowin’’ is preceded by the group’s own upbeat ‘Caipirinha’, which, heard on the first really sunny spring day of the year, delivered a tantalising Copacabana promise of summer parties to come. The empathetic drumming of Cuban-born Ernesto Simpson is no surprise: the list of artists he’s played with includes Brazilian legend Airto Moreira. What links these two tracks together are the twin horn harmonies of Brandon Allen (saxes) and Quentin Collins (trumpet), a distinctive nod in the direction of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and the early Herbie Hancock line-ups.

When the band swing, they know how to swing hard, but they can instantly cut to crystal-clear quiet moments. So their version of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Dolphin Dance’ is like a cool jazz Peter Grimes, surf washing up a beach, shingle or otherwise. Kyle Eastwood, on electric bass this time, with more than a hint of Jaco Pastorius, delivers both the melody and a bass solo that actually tells a narrative, taking us out to sea and bringing us back to shore, accompanied by calm, sonorous trumpet and unhurried piano. Throughout the album Eastwood’s solos on double bass or electric/fretless are melodic and focused, and for anyone who has sat through endless meandering, directionless bass solos, that is a true joy.

Those three opening tracks tee up the rest of the album: a mix of deft allusions on original tracks by various combinations of the band – a touch of Lee Morgan’s trumpet in the boogaloo of ‘Prosecco Smile’, a sense of Miroslav Vitous in the bass work supporting pianist Andy McCormack’s hypnotic ‘Vista’, and the whole group opening out on the Keith Jarrett-esque ‘Incantation’.

In a neat, subtle thank you to the father who first introduced him to jazz, and for whose movies Kyle has frequently composed, ‘Letters From Iwo Jima’ is a stripped-down reading of the film’s theme for piano and double bass, dignified in its simplicity, rounded in its depth.

What gels together what could have been a too disparate tracklist is the chemistry of the quintet, obviously comfortable with each other and their individual musical voices. This is a timepiece which links the spirit of the past and the present in a measured balance.

‘Timepieces’ is released on 21 April by Jazz Village.

The Pizza Express Maidstone show is currently sold out but the band are playing four nights at Ronnie Scott’s in London 20-23 May 2015.