It’d make a music lover’s day to discover that Clint Eastwood’s first inspiration carried not a .38 but a saxophone.
”Bird [jazz saxophone legend Charlie Parker] was a shock to my system,” Eastwood, 65, told biographer Richard Schickel of a show he saw as a boy. ”It was amazing to see that kind of confidence. He wasn’t arrogant — just a guy standing there in a pinstriped suit. I thought, God, what an amazing, expressive thing.”
It’s that passion for America’s most cool music that inspired ”Eastwood: After Hours, A Night of Jazz,” a program that, on Oct. 17, kicks off the season for the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, the 17-piece ensemble under the wing of New York’s historic temple of classical music. Eastwood will be there, the guest of honor, surrounded by nearly two dozen musicians handpicked by the director-jazz-bo — including both saxist Flip Phillips, who played alongside Parker at the 1946 show that impressed the young Clint, and Eastwood’s son, Kyle, 28, a bassist signed to Columbia Records.
”[One of] my earliest memories of jazz,” Kyle says, ”is sitting on my father’s knee while he played boogie-woogie piano.”
Dotted with musical cues to Eastwood’s work and life, the show will feature the world premiere of Lennie Niehaus’ ”Eastwood After Hours,” a commissioned suite comprising themes from Eastwood’s movies, climaxing with a duel between tenor saxophonists Joshua Redman and James Carter. ”Clint loves the classic tenor battles, two musicians squaring off against each other,” says Niehaus, who has scored 12 of Eastwood’s films.
The filmmaker’s Jones for jazz has flowed through his career — from projects as director (1988’s Bird), producer (1989’s Straight, No Chaser, a documentary about Thelonious Monk), and actor (his piano performances in 1993’s In the Line of Fire) to more obscure threads: his keyboard playing on the soundtrack to 1984’s City Heat; and last year’s hit Bridges of Madison County soundtrack, released on Eastwood’s Malpaso label.
At concert’s end, the assembled players plan to launch into a jam of the big band standard ”After Hours.” ”Don’t be surprised if Clint sits down at the piano for that one,” says Niehaus.