Today, Kyle Eastwood is less and less known as the son of Clint Eastwood and more of a universally respected musician and leader in his own right. A virtuoso bassist on electric and upright, as well as a talented composer with a keen ear for great tunes as well as the subtleties of modern jazz, he is right at the forefront of the contemporary scene, having chosen to immerse himself in the music he loves. Dynamic and pulsing, full of swing, great rhythms and memorable melodies, Songs From The Chateau is Eastwood’s fourth US effort on Rendezvous Music (licensed from Candid Records—one of the leading independent jazz labels in the UK). With this new album Eastwood set out to capture the sounds and energy with which his band regularly tours the world to sellout crowds.
When he is not on tour Eastwood spends much of his time between Paris, where he has lived on and off for five years, and Los Angeles and is very much at home in France; Eastwood’s preceding release on Rendezvous, Metropolitain, was also recorded in France, so it was natural to look there for an ideal place where he and his musicians could relax for a few days and allow their creative juices to flow. Such a place turned out to be the fabulous 15th Century Couronneau in Ligueux, deep in classic Bordeaux country, and Songs From The Chateau was born. To capture the authentic sound of the all-star band Eastwood has on display, producer Crofton Orr and the engineering of Simone Griva were enlisted. Also on board was long time collaborator Michael Stevens (cowriter with Eastwood on the scores for films including Changeling and Gran Torino).
Although it was recorded in Bordeaux, most of the record was written on the road and at rehearsals while Eastwood and his band were on tour in the spring and summer of 2010. As the tour progressed, so did arrangements and concepts for the album. By the time they got to recording at Chateau Couronneau the band was already very comfortable with the music and was free to let the beautiful setting inspire them.
Eastwood goes on to explain, “The whole idea of the project was to have a little break after the tour was over and take our time and record in a very relaxed way.” The group also reveled in the natural sound that came from recording live in the living room of the Chateau. “We went in and recorded the way we would usually play a gig and I think this album really captures the way this band plays and interacts musically in a live setting.”
The record itself contains more than a casual nod towards France, Eastwood’s second country. The opener “Marciac,” scene of the famous jazz festival where Eastwood played in 2010, gets the programme underway in an impressive fashion as drummer Martyn Kaine ushers in authoritative and fluent solo contributions from trumpeter Graeme Flowers and saxophonist Graeme Blevins, whilst the admirably atmospheric “Moon Over Couronneau” shows off the impressive talents of pianist Andrew McCormack. This is in turn underpinned by Eastwood himself, who then comes to the fore on “Aperitif”—a sharpener that goes down very smoothly, in the best sense of the word.
Around Eastwood, the band is tight through the album, and inventive highlights abound. The vivacious and aptly named “Café Calypso” sees Blevins getting deeply into the Caribbean grooves with his jaunty and spirited saxophone. The reflective tone of “Soul Captain” has some tasty McCormack piano complemented by Blevins’ soprano. “Andalucía” is descriptive, enhanced by Eastwood’s virtuosic solo and hypnotic bass figure, permeated by Flowers’ haunting trumpet.
Flowers’ flugelhorn and Eastwood’s stylish bass lead again on “Over The Line” while the album finishes with a fond reminiscence of you-know-who, “Down At Ronnie’s.” The band confidently struts its stuff with a highly charged dialogue between the horns, bringing to a close what may well be the best of Eastwood’s albums to date.
There’s a simple explanation as to why this group meshes so well together. Eastwood has been carefully developing this band for years; the most recent addition to the group has already been with the band for four years. “Some of my favorite albums in jazz were made by musicians who stayed together and developed this kind of group feeling and that is something that has always been important to me,” he says before going on to explain his time looking for musicians who want to be a part of the group but that can also bring something creative to the table that gels with the other musicians. Songs From The Chateau clearly exemplifies the direction this group is going in and leaves you anxious for more.