Working with composer Lennie Neihaus, Eastwood composed key melodies for the scores of two of his biggest hits, the multiple Oscar-winning Unforgiven (Claudia’s Theme) and The Bridges of Madison County (Doe Eyes).
Eastwood’s latest film, the mysterious drama Mystic River, is his first to feature an entire score composed by the producer and director.
With the film set in an Irish neighborhood in Boston, Eastwood recorded the entire score there at Symphony Hall with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, both conducted by Niehaus, with orchestrations by Patrick Hollenbeck and special arrangements by Gennady Loktinov.
Eastwood’s love of jazz can be traced to his performing in small clubs while growing up in Oakland, Calif., and having the opportunity to watch jazz greats like Charlie Parker play live. His 1988 film Bird included original Parker cuts, orchestrated by Niehaus, as well as original copies of Eastwood’s own treasured issues of Downbeat magazine.
In 1997, he released Eastwood After Hours: Live at Carnegie Hall, a well-received concert disc based on an exciting gathering of numerous jazz luminaries, including pianists Kenny Barron and Barry Harris, vocalists Jimmy Scott and Kevin Mahogany, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, bassist Christian McBride and several generations of saxmen, including Flip Phillips, Joshua Redman, James Moody and Charles McPherson. Eastwood played piano and produced the ambitious project, which incorporated performances of jazz standards and pieces from many of his films.The Mystic River soundtrack, 19 selections for a just over an hour’s worth of music, is mostly classical. Its dark, moody theme features several variations of the same, four-note melody. Some tracks feature the piano or synthesizer, while others highlight the full orchestra.
Brad Hatfield plays beautifully as soloist on three brief, reflective cuts: Meditation #1 - Piano, #2 and #3. He also is the featured musician on the opening Main Title. All are quite good and continue with the basic theme.However, from a jazz perspective, the final two cuts are the highlights of this album. Both are composed by Eastwood’s son, Kyle Eastwood, an accomplished jazz bassist, and Michael Stevens.
The first of these is the funky, upbeat Cosmo. A bit of jazz-pop and fusion, Cosmo features Kyle Eastwood in a style that immediately reminds one of the late Jaco Pastorius, as well as impressive trumpet and saxophone solos.
The closer is the mellow Black Emerald Blues. An all-acoustic piece, this track features a sax lead, with bass, piano and drums as the skillful supporting cast.