Nearly two decades after the release of his debut, Kyle Eastwood—on his eighth album as a leader—pilots a strong band, writes solid material and plays the bass with brio. Listening to In Transit’s 10 tracks, including several originals and a few smartly chosen covers, one is struck by the obvious ebullience among the participants, and by the unquestionable talent. Eastwood and his English band—tenor and soprano saxophonist Brandon Allen, trumpeter/flugelhornist Quentin Collins, pianist Andrew McCormack and new drummer Chris Higginbottom—lock tightly on grooves like “Rockin’ Ronnie’s,” a swinging original dedicated to the venerable London jazz club, and “Rush Hour,” which lives up to its name with its rapid-fire pace. “Jarreau,” a nod to the late vocalist, is elegant, and “Soulful Times,” a ringer for a late-’60s/early ’70s soul-jazz radio hit, sets the pace agreeably.
Italian saxophonist Stefano Di Battista joins the quintet for four numbers, bringing additional body to the horn mix; his primary showcase, on Ennio Morricone’s “Cinema Paradiso (Love Theme),” particularly when he dances with Eastwood’s bass, is both audacious and delicate. The other covers—one each from Monk, Mingus and Basie—are all handled adroitly.
When it’s over, though, In Transit doesn’t leave a mark. For all its ace musicianship and commendable arrangements, it falls short of reaching a place that makes one want to examine it more closely. There’s the sense that, were they to really cut loose and endeavor to find a niche of their own, Eastwood and his compatriots could make a real dent. This just ain’t that.