While Kyle Eastwood may be better known for his composing skills, with movies like Gran Torino and Mystic River to his credit, what filled The Blue Whale was his allegiance to assertive hard bop, as he his long standing team of Alex “Pope” Norris, Jason Rigby/ts-ss, Andrew McCormack/p and Joe Strasser/dr through a toe tapping 75 minute set.
Focusing on material from his last album (Time Pieces, Eastwood’s confident fingers lead the band through the snappy Latine “Prosecco Smile,” with the upbeat unison horns stating the earthy theme, leaving room to feature Rigby’s middleweight tenor roar and Norris’ savory trumpet.
Mixing whistling with his bass work, Eastwood used the 40s Swing Era classic “Big Noise From Winnetka” as an intro to the torrid “Bullett Train.” With Rigby’s searing soprano combined with Strasser’s rapid fire ride cymbal segue into a arm wrestling match back and forth between piano, bass and drum, all Eastwood could say after the avalanche was to joke, “Well, we got our ballad out of the way.”
Things got a bit more exotic as Eastwood introduced “Marrakech” with an brooding bow to his upright bass, changing to electric bass to complement McCormack’s caravan-like cadence, with the rhythm trio creating a Sahara’d sand dune of breeze with Rigby’s soprano joining in to create a clarion call in. Replacing Rigby, Norris brought up his flugelhorn to create a graceful tone to meld with McCormack and Eastwood’s ripples on “Dolphin Dance,” as the leader’s electric bass solo took the audience on an auditory journey of ebbs and flows.
Eastwood closed the set with his rapid fire bass introducing a tune that actually sounded like a theme from a film noir, Charles Mingus’ “Boogie Stop Shuffle,” promised to be on the new album. After Rigby’s crying tenor and Norris’ sweet incendiaries, Strasser rode the team like Walter Brennan on a Wagon Train before ending the evening with enough sparks in his drum solo to start a campfire.
Upcoming shows at the Blue Whale include Oz Ny 09/12, Avishai Cohen 09/15-16, Adam Rogers DICE 09/19-20 and David Binney Residency 3 09/21