Friday, April 13, 2018

Kyle Eastwood - In Transit

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Sometimes, upon receiving music that is new to me, I access other reviews because I’m curious about what other have to say about it.
Basically this stems from my reluctance to assume the role of “Jazz critic” because I know how hard it is to play this stuff and I don’t want to disrespect others by belittling their efforts.
Seeking safer grounds from which to pursue the topic; getting my bearings; reaffirmation by others whose opinions I respect - call it what you will - I just feel more comfortable getting a broader base of thought and opinion before I proceed.
It is a time-consuming process and sometimes an unrewarding one in terms of the quality [or lack thereof] of what I uncover.
Taken in combination, these reasons are why I don’t do a lot of reviews and when I do they are more of a description rather than an analysis.
Sometimes, too, I find that much of what I want to say about a recording has already been said in these researched reviews.
The latter was the case recently when I set off to hunt down [doesn’t that sound dramatic?] reviews of bassist Kyle Eastwood’s In Transit CD [Jazz Village JVS570146], a recording I highly commend to you from every standpoint:
  1. Excellent song selection
  2. Articulated and strong basswork by the leader
  3. Inventive and well-executed solos by by the member of the quintet and by guest artist, saxophonist Stefano di Battista
  4. And especially because of the heartwarming rendition of Ennio Morricone poignantly melodic Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso that features Kyle’s fine basswork and Stefano beautiful soprano sax tone.
So for this posting, I decided to not incorporate quotations from other sources into my own review and instead, share them with you on a standalone basis “as is” so as to give you the broadest possible view of what other reviewers think of the recording.
Obviously, this will result in some duplication, but this approach protects the integrity of these reviews.

“Bassist Kyle Eastwood, son of longtime jazz advocate Clint Eastwood, plays like someone with the music in his blood. Based in Paris, he fronts a quintet of fiery British musicians, including trumpeter Quentin Collins, saxophonist Brandon Allen, and pianist Andrew McCormack. Saxophonist Stefano di Battista guests on four tracks, including Ennio Morricone’s surpassingly melodic “Cinema Paradiso (Love Theme).” A gritty, soulfully swinging mood prevails, not least on “Rockin’ Ronnie’s” and the Count Basie gem “Blues in Hoss’ Flat.””
Nearly two decades after the release of his debut, Kyle Eastwood—on his eighth album as a leader—pilots a strong band, writes solid material and plays the bass with brio. Listening to In Transit’s 10 tracks, including several originals and a few smartly chosen covers, one is struck by the obvious ebullience among the participants, and by the unquestionable talent. Eastwood and his English band—tenor and soprano saxophonist Brandon Allen, trumpeter/flugelhornist Quentin Collins, pianist Andrew McCormack and new drummer Chris Higginbottom—lock tightly on grooves like “Rockin’ Ronnie’s,” a swinging original dedicated to the venerable London jazz club, and “Rush Hour,” which lives up to its name with its rapid-fire pace. “Jarreau,” a nod to the late vocalist, is elegant, and “Soulful Times,” a ringer for a late-’60s/early ’70s soul-jazz radio hit, sets the pace agreeably.
Italian saxophonist Stefano Di Battista joins the quintet for four numbers, bringing additional body to the horn mix; his primary showcase, on Ennio Morricone’s “Cinema Paradiso (Love Theme),” particularly when he dances with Eastwood’s bass, is both audacious and delicate. The other covers—one each from Monk, Mingus and Basie—are all handled adroitly.
When it’s over, though, In Transit doesn’t leave a mark. For all its ace musicianship and commendable arrangements, it falls short of reaching a place that makes one want to examine it more closely. There’s the sense that, were they to really cut loose and endeavor to find a niche of their own, Eastwood and his compatriots could make a real dent. This just ain’t that.

“Like the movie in which he supplied the soundtrack [Invictus], bassist Kyle Eastwood shows that he’s unconquered by the current jazz trends and fads, assiduously staying loyal to the vintage hard bop sounds pioneered by Art Blakey and Horace Silver.

This latest album with stalwarts Brandon Allen/ts, Quentin Collins/tp-fh, Andrew McCormack/p, Chris Higginbottom/dr and guest Stefano Di Battista/ss-as will fit in comfortably with your vintage Blue Note hard bop sessions.

But Eastwood doesn’t stay stuck in the 50s, as his electric bass work with Di Battista’s soprano on the pastoral “Cinema Paradiso” is a sepia toned work of art, and McCormack delivers a smooth and silky original “Jarreau” that is deftly delightful. The team swings hard as Eastwood’s bass jumps into the barroom on Charles Mingus’ “Boogie Stop Shuffle” and a trio take of Thelonious Monk’s “We See” is a quirky and fun angular get together.

Vintage hard bop with a gospel feel is preached by the horns on “Soulful Times’ and the shuffling “Blues In Hoss’ Flat” that has the horns preaching from the pulpit, and the team gets a swaggering blues on the strutting “Movin’.” These guys make it sound so easy, but if it were, why isn’t everyone doing it?”


Bassist Kyle Eastwood has an unbridled passion for jazz and the innate talent to share it. He is an artist that strives to reinvent the genre by not only respecting its masters, but also pushing the boundaries in search of a new tradition that looks ever forward. Following on the success of his first two Jazz Village releases, Eastwood's In Transit features songs by some of his favorite composers as well as original tunes by Eastwood and his band. Guest artists include saxophonist Stefano Di Battista. The mood of the album's ten tracks ranges from hard bop and rhythm 'n' blues to a decidedly contemporary sound. With its powerful rhythms and catchy melodies, Eastwood's In Transit is guaranteed to please.

© -  Ian Mann, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Ian Mann - The JazzMann Blog:

Kyle Eastwood
“In Transit” Jazz Village (JV 570146)

“In Transit” is the eighth album as a leader by the bassist and composer Kyle Eastwood, born and raised in California but now based in Paris.
Eastwood is the son of the celebrated actor and film director Clint Eastwood and it’s to his eternal credit that he has managed to escape the giant shadow cast by his father by carving out a successful career in an entirely different discipline.

Eastwood plays both acoustic and electric bass and his early albums such as “Paris Blue” (2004), “Now” (2007) and “Metropolitan” (2009) flirted with elements of fusion and nu-soul. I remember reviewing “Now” back in the day and finding it very bland and disappointing.

With 2011’s “Songs From The Ch√Ęteau” Eastwood’s music became more obviously rooted in jazz, a trend that continued through the albums “The View From Here” (2013) and “Time Pieces” (2015).

Released in October 2017 “In Transit” offers more of the same and in many respects represents a return to roots. Clint Eastwood was a jazz lover and through his father the young Kyle (born 1968)  witnessed performances by jazz greats such as vocalists Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, saxophonist Stan Getz, drummer Buddy Rich and pianist and bandleader Count Basie. Through his father he even got to meet these now departed giants of the music.

When he began playing himself he gravitated towards the music of the hard bop pioneers such as drummer Art Blakey, pianist Horace Silver, saxophonist Wayne Shorter and trumpeters Miles Davis and Lee Morgan.  Another profound influence was the great bassist and composer Charles Mingus.

Being based in Europe Eastwood has always worked extensively with British musicians and the core quintet that appears on “In Transit” includes long serving pianist Andrew McCormack, trumpeter Quentin Collins, new drummer Chris Higginbottom and the Australian born, London based tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen. The album also features the playing of guest saxophonist Stefano Di Battista. The Italian played several gigs with the Eastwood band around Europe and was invited to contribute to the album. He adds alto sax to three tracks and soprano to another.

Despite my reservations about some of his early work I’ve been fortunate enough to witness two excellent live performances by Eastwood at The Edge in Much Wenlock in 2008 and more recently at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton in 2014. Both bands included McCormack and the Wolverhampton show was a particularly memorable event which I reviewed here;

“In Transit” is rooted in the hard bop genre and comprises of a number of originals written in this style plus a smattering of covers from Thelonious Monk, Count Basie and Charles Mingus. Eastwood, who has written movie scores himself, acknowledges his film background with an arrangement of Ennio Morricone’s “Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso”.

Eastwood’s writing has frequently been inspired by his travels and the title of “In Transit” pays homage to his band’s heavy touring schedule and the fact that many of these pieces had been ‘road tested’ before they were brought to the studio.

The album commences with “Soulful Times”, written by Collins, a hard bop disciple himself who has released a number of his own albums in the same vein. Introduced by McCormack at the piano this easy swinging, gospel flavoured offering includes some tightly focussed ensemble playing and an extended solo from Allen’s earthy tenor sax.
Credited to Allen/Collins/Eastwood/McCormack “Rush Hour” sounds exactly like something off a vintage Blue Note recording with its tricky, boppish theme and blazing horn solos from Collins on trumpet and Allen on tenor. These two are followed by the excellent McCormack who positively sparkles at the piano. There’s a slight slackening of the pace towards the close to allow for a brief cameo from the leader’s double bass.

The title of the Eastwood composed “Movin’” sums up the spirit of the album. This bluesy, mid tempo swinger combines an attractive melodic theme with fluent solos from Collins on flugelhorn, McCormack at the piano and finally Allen on subtly probing tenor. Eastwood and Higginbottom provide the necessary rhythmic impetus and the leader also steps out of the shadows with a highly dexterous bass solo.

The first cover is Eastwood’s beautiful arrangement of Morricone’s “Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso”. Introduced by Eastwood’s liquidly melodic electric bass the piece also features the sensuous soprano sax of guest artist Di Battista, who once played with Morricone himself. With Collins, Allen and Higginbottom all sitting out McCormack’s piano is a crucial component that helps to underpin this sumptuous trio performance.

Co-composed by Eastwood and McCormack “Night Flight” revisits the easy grooves of “Movin’” and features Di Battista once more, this time on alto saxophone as he shares the solos with Allen and Collins.

Thelonious Monk’s “We See” is given a playfully energetic trio interpretation from the triumvirate of McCormack, Eastwood and Higginbottom with the pianist showing up strongly and sounding suitably “Monk-ish”. The bassist and drummer offer vibrant support in a well calibrated trio performance and Eastwood demonstrates his chops with a virtuoso bass solo. Meanwhile Higginbottom gets to enjoy a series of spirited drum breaks.

“Rockin’ Ronnie’s”, a joint composition by Allen, Collins, Eastwood and McCormack pays homage to the quintet’s favourite London jazz club, the great British institution that is Ronnie Scott’s. It’s a fiercely swinging composition rooted firmly in the Blue Note style that features a strong melodic theme and powerful solos from Allen on muscular tenor and Collins on mercurial trumpet. Allen and Collins work particularly effectively together and have co-led their own hard bop inspired quintet with which they have released a number of albums. The two horn soloists are followed by McCormack on piano and Eastwood at the bass, the leader again impressing with his fluency and dexterity as he enjoys two bites at the cherry.

McCormack’s “Jarreau” pays tribute to the recently departed vocalist Al Jarreau (1940 – 2017)  and borrows some of the harmony lines and chord changes from the singer’s tune “Not Like This”. After a collective theme statement the composer takes the first solo on piano and he’s followed by lucid statements from Allen on tenor and Collins on trumpet.

Allen’s arrangement of the old Count Basie / Frank Foster warhorse “Blues In Hoss’ Flat” sees the return of Di Battista on alto. Following a rousing group intro featuring the interlocking horns this robustly swinging piece goes on to incorporate vibrant solos from Allen on tenor, Collins on trumpet and Di Battista on Adderley inspired alto. These three are followed by McCormack on piano and Eastwood on double bass with Higginbottom also making a brief cameo before the collective take things storming out.

Allen is also responsible for the ultra rhythmic arrangement of Charles Mingus’ “Boogie Stop Shuffle” which closes the album. This is ushered in by a virtuoso passage of unaccompanied double bass from Eastwood before hitting a full blooded collective romping stride. Di Battista is present once more and his incisive contribution kicks of the solos. He’s followed by the ebullient Collins on trumpet and the muscular Collins on tenor. McCormack’s darting, scampering piano solo is backed by a propulsive groove courtesy of Eastwood and Higginbottom and the drummer gets to enjoy an extended feature before the forces gather together once more for a high octane finale that concludes the album on an energetic high.

“In Transit” won’t win too many marks for originality but it is a hugely enjoyable album that features some brilliant playing from a superb multi-national line up with British musicians very well represented. The core quintet is a particularly well balanced unit with a chemistry honed by many years of experience on the road. A Kyle Eastwood Band live show is a highly exciting experience, as I can attest, and there are plenty of good things to appreciate about this album too. Everybody plays well and there are some superb solos from all members of the band. Eastwood and his colleagues aren’t seeking to re-invent the jazz wheel but what they do they do with skill, spirit, vivacity and verve.”

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