When Kyle Eastwood’s quartet performed in Southern California three years ago the bassist proved to audiences that his focus was on the melody. Playing standards such as "Body And Soul," "All The Things You Are," and "In A Sentimental Mood," the leader was careful to state the melodies first and let them settle before launching into improvised adventures. While it’s true that "everybody talks during the bass solo," Eastwood and tenor saxophonist Doug Webb had the audience’s ear because they were offering a product that contained both quality and comfort.
Recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, the recording features: Eastwood’s quartet with 3 originals, a big band with 5 arrangements from Vince Mendoza, and 2 more songs with small ensemble. Vocalists Joni Mitchell, Julia Fordham, and Diana King sit in for one track each. Kyle Eastwood shares the spotlight on most numbers and provides creative acoustic bass solo segments. The quartet includes Eastwood, Webb, pianist Matt McGuire, and drummer Kendall Kay. McGuire’s composition "Watch, Watch" is a dramatic up-tempo modern mainstream piece with an exciting drive to it. Similarly, "Chaff and Grain" and "Da Da Ba Ba Nu Nu" explore contemporary harmonic and rhythmic concepts in an acoustic format. The pure tone of Webb’s soprano saxophone floats above "Chaff and Grain," which – at eight and a half minutes – is the longest piece as well as the session’s highlight.
Joni Mitchell and tenor saxophonist Plas Johnson (who readers may remember as the original Pink Panther sax man) deliver Marvin Gaye’s blues-drenched "Trouble Man." Diana King’s dramatic "Why Can’t We Live Together" maintains the seriousness of Timmy Thomas’s lyrics while she and tenor saxophonist David Sanchez drive the message home. Julia Fordham’s clear alto voice and Oscar Brashear’s big fat trumpet stand in front of the big band for "In the Wee Small Hours (of the Morning)." Similarly, soprano saxophonist Steve Tavaglione and pianist Billy Childs reap the orchestra’s arrangement of McGuire’s ballad "Solace." Trumpeter Sal Marquez guests on the hard bop "Enter Evening," which serves to demonstrate the function of bassist as rhythm-maker. Webb’s composition "Stanley Hill Drive" and Tom Waits’ "I Beg Your Pardon" feature trumpeter Mark Isham and saxophonist Sanchez with the big band. Kyle Eastwood’s debut recording proves his love of good acoustic jazz and reveals a stand-up bass talent that emphasizes the melody. Highly recommended.