Bassist Kyle Eastwood grew up immersed in the world of jazz. The classic sounds of Miles Davis and John Coltrane filled his home as a child and his father, legendary actor Clint Eastwood, introduced him to many of the genre's greatest practitioners before he was old enough for middle school. Between breaks on a film scoring session, the younger Eastwood spoke with the Weekly about that path to becoming a globally-recognized commander of the upright and electric bass. He will be appearing with his band this Saturday at Spaghettini in Seal Beach.
OC Weekly (Sean J. O'Connell): When did you take up the bass?
Kyle Eastwood: The first time I picked up the bass was when I was 13 or 14. I was in high school. I had a lot of friends who were musicians and they were always looking for a bassist. I studied piano and a little guitar first but I knew mostly guitarists and horn players. Luckily it came naturally to me.
Did you gravitate to upright or electric first?
I started on electric. At 18 I switched to acoustic and I focused on that for a few years before I went back to electric. I like playing both. It's nice to get different sounds and different colors. I spent a few years just playing acoustic but then I missed the electric sometimes. I had to split my time on both instruments.
Who were your initial influences musically?
I was really into Paul Chambers, transcribing his bass lines and solos. I got slowly into the old school guys like Oscar Pettiford, Jimmy Blanton and Slam Stewart. When I first started playing I was learning Motown tunes so lots of James Jamerson. All the funk bass players. I listened to a lot of James Brown.
I did a master class with Ray Brown once. I got to see him record in the studio when he was working with my father on the Bird soundtrack. I was about 19 or 20 then and it was great. Ray and Monty Alexander were replacing the tracks behind some bootleg Charlie Parker recordings that someone had recorded from the audience.
You grew up in Carmel in Northern California. What was the jazz scene like for you growing up?
I grew up going to the Monterey Jazz Festival. I started going in the late 70s. The very first time I went I was about 9 or 10. The Count Basie big band was playing. That was the first time I remember going out with my father. We went around near the end of his set and watched from the side of the stage, close to where the drummer was. I was impressed by the power and swing and drive of that band. That's what got me interested in seeing live music.
As a kid, if I was travelling with my dad, we'd go to clubs on location like San Francisco or in LA or London. He took me to Ronnie Scotts once in 1979 or 1980. We went to hear Horace Silver. He'll go hear some music on a night off. I remember going to all the clubs like the Baked Potato and Dantes in LA. I definitely would not have gotten in if it wasn't for my dad.
You are one of your dad's most frequent scoring collaborators. What is it like working with him?
It's a lot of fun working with him. I grew up watching him work. I know what he likes and how he approaches making films. Some of the scores I've done myself. Sometimes he'll write a melody or a theme on the piano. He'll want to incorporate that into the score. It's good. He has distinct ideas of exactly what he wants but gives you creative freedom just to come up with something right.
Was there ever any desire to rebel against his tastes? Ever want to play in a punk band?
I did all kinds of music. I used to play electric bass with a couple of singers around LA. I played the Roxy, the Troubadour and the Whiskey. I played all those places when I was 21 or 22. I like all kinds of music but jazz has always been what I've been interested in.