Looking unmistakably like his father, American actor/filmmaker Clint Eastwood, musician Kyle Eastwood has the same laconic, direct manner and talks without decoration or pretense.
But instead of acting, Kyle chose music as a profession -- specifically jazz, as a player and a composer. He lets his music do the talking.
Eastwood and his band will participate in Akbank Sanat’s “Jazz Günleri” (Jazz Days) on June 21 at 8 p.m., with a workshop at 2 p.m. He will bring four European musicians with him for the concert, which will feature his own compositions, many of which are from his well-known albums “Paris Blue,” “Now,” “Metropolitain” and “Songs From the Chateau.” Those titles suggest an affinity for France; indeed, he’s traveled all over the world and has incorporated influences from those travels in his music.
Born in 1968 and raised in Carmel, California, on the idyllic Monterey peninsula, Kyle was exposed to the famous Monterey Jazz Festival at a young age. As he explains in this interview, his DNA is rich with musical genes, but he also was born into unique opportunity. With a prominent father in the film industry, Kyle had the opportunity to write film scores. He has contributed music to 11 films; one of the most prominent was his father’s “Mystic River” in 2003, for which they co-wrote the soundtrack. His latest film score is “Mulberry Child,” an independent film shown in many international film festivals this year. Eastwood has recorded five music albums of his own so far and is continually penning more for future recording projects.
Being the son of a famous actor, however, sometimes gets in the way of establishing his own identity. He finds that life as an expat in France gives him what he needs to establish himself and his art, free of public assumptions and the kind of unbridled adulation that movie stars often tolerate as part of their success. In a recent interview, Eastwood spoke to Today’s Zaman about what kept him grounded while growing up in a Hollywood family.
Will this be your debut in İstanbul?
Actually, I’ve been here a few times; the last time was two years ago.
İstanbul is a big jazz town, with lots of fans and numerous festivals.
Yes, and I remember having really good audiences for two nights in a row. That’s why I love coming back.
Since you are the namesake of the band, why did you choose bass instead of lead guitar?
As a child, I started on piano and took up the guitar in my teens. Then, when I picked up the bass, it all came so naturally that I stuck with that.
What about the bass line magnetized you more than the other harmonic or melodic elements?
I was always interested in the rhythm section; that is, the bass and drums. For me, the bass is more interesting than drums. I’m always interested in bass lines!
I’m an American who has chosen to live abroad. Would you say that’s true for you, too?
I’ve spent six years in Paris. I needed a change. I grew up in California and I lived in New York City briefly before coming to Europe. In Paris I had met some good musicians as well as in London. So, to answer your question, I just wanted a change of scene. But I still go back to the States every year, for both touring and scoring films. And importantly, it’s where my family lives.
The question I’m asked continually is “Why İstanbul?” So for you, why Paris?
There are lots of opportunities to perform in Paris, and there are really good players and wonderful clubs. Much more than in New York, believe it or not. The jazz scene in Paris was the deciding factor.
One of my favorites, your “Paris Blue,” has a slight Turkish tinge. You’ve beautifully explored the mix of East and West in your music. Do I hear a balaban in there as well as in the track “Marrakech?”
Actually it’s the duduk. Yeah, I like that sound, too. I’ve loved hearing the music of other countries, like Turkey and Morocco, and I wanted to incorporate it in mine in some way.
Will you have time to absorb some of the Turkish music styles and instruments while you’re here?
I want to, but we have only two days here and I’m doing a workshop at 2 p.m. on the same day as the concert, so our schedule is pretty tight.
What will you present in the workshop?
I generally like to see what people want, but I’ve found that they’re usually interested in my approach. So we’ll play it by ear!
Do you work with the same musicians in Europe and in America?
I’ve got a list of musicians on both sides of the Atlantic that I like to work with. I’m touring now with saxophonist Graeme Blevins, trumpeter Quentin Collins, pianist Grant Windsor and drummer Martyn Kaine. These guys are based in London, and they recorded with me on my last album.
Concerning film scores, I’m glad to see you’re bringing more prominence to this profession as I feel film composers are generally overlooked. What’s the difference between being a film composer and doing a soundtrack?
For a soundtrack, it’s creating the title music, songs and the other musical parts, which are called general scoring. Films are completely different than doing albums, by the way, because the music for a movie supports action and emotion. There are rules to follow, but you can still experiment to come up with things that work -- to see what works to convey the underlying meaning of the story, action and dialogue. However, simply being a composer for a film can mean contributing a song or other musical elements [within someone else’s soundtrack]. Doing an album is a much freer experience because the whole project is completely yours.
How has being the son of Clint Eastwood worked both for you and against you?
There are advantages and disadvantages. A famous name gets attention but it’s not always a good thing. People tend to have a preconceived idea of who you are. This is the main complaint I have. I prefer to focus on the music. If it [the fame] brings someone through the door to hear the music, that’s definitely a good thing.
I read that your father exposed you to music when you were a child, and that was very instrumental in your choosing music as a career.
I grew up with music in the household. Both of my parents play a bit of piano and my mother and grandmother were singers. In fact, my grandmother was a voice teacher at Northwestern University. They were always supportive of anything I did musically and they took me to concerts all the time. Our house was only 10 minutes away from the Monterey Jazz Festival, which I started attending in 1976. That got me really interested in jazz. My dad also writes music for films. He comes up with an idea and I execute them for him; for example, if he thinks up a theme, I orchestrate it.
Did you go to a conservatory to learn orchestration, harmony, etc.?
Yes, I attended the music conservatory at USC [University of Southern California]. While I was in high school I studied bass privately, and I began doing sessions for film composers.
So what are you cooking up for the future?
I’m always writing new stuff. We’ll go into the studio in September to record a new album. Meanwhile, we’ve got a lot of concerts, all the way through August. But now, we are really looking forward to coming back to İstanbul. My absolute favorite thing to do is take the boat up the Bosporus!