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Eastwood After Hours: Live At Carnegie Hall

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As Hollywood figures go, Clint Eastwood deserves credit for musical integrity in the face of the kind of generic musical values which have made American film music so moribund in the last decade and more. But what’s this-an elaborate big band tribute at Carnegie Hall with an all-star cast, released with fanfare on Warner Brothers, for a movie star whose pianistic skills are, well, well-meaning but marginal? Yes, why not? The cultural world needs more Clint Eastwoods. His love of jazz is well-known, before and after the Charlie Parker biopic Bird, but there is more to the overall stylistic picture-which makes this unusual tribute album more than a jazz project, but an American pastiche which also includes spaghetti western ditties. Kicking things off, aptly enough, Kenny Barron and Barry Harris play “Misty” for him. Jimmy Scott gives a vulnerable, quiveringly fine reading of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and we hear such strange program-fellows as the twang of “San Antonio” and a version of “Straight, No Chaser” with James Carter and Joshua Redman acting like riff-quick gunslingers in a tenor cutting session. Themes like Lennie Neihaus’ music from the Eastwood sleeper Tightrope to the kitsch staple of Ennio Morricone’s theme to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly fit together with alto saxist Charles McPherson’s Bird-ish take on “Cherokee” and Eastwood’s own minimalist piano riffing on the closing blues medley. It’s a tribute to a famous jazz lover, on the surface, but beyond that, it’s a ripe excuse to toast American musical diversity.