Can Clint Eastwood Help Keep Jazz Alive?

What Happened To Jazz?

All throughout the 20th century, jazz played a large role in not only to music and entertainment, but also in everyday life. This can especially be seen in the early half of the century. Though its fame dropped slightly toward the end of 40′s and early 50′s, jazz morphed and adapted to meet the desires of newer generations, taking on different approaches and styles. Even today, jazz can be seen from coast to coast, where nearly every area and city within the U.S. contributing toward its development.

Looking at the end of 20th century, and now the beginning of the 21st, one cannot help but notice that Jazz has taken more of a “back seat” role in the music industry. This is not to say that jazz is dying necessarily, it just isn’t number one in mainstream music. With so many different styles of music ranking above Jazz, some people wonder what could happen in the near and distant future.

Clint Eastwood with Dave Brubeck
Eastwood’s Mission Ranch Hotel

What Is Mr. Clint Eastwood Doing To Help Jazz?

In attempt to rekindle the popularity of jazz and to make more people aware of its presence, one man has been making huge contributions in the form of film. Famed actor, producer, and director Clint Eastwood is taking his love of jazz and relaying it to the public. His efforts to do this, being the influential public figure he is, are tremendous and have been received well by nearly everyone in the jazz scene.

Eastwood produced and directed the film biography of alto saxophonist Charlie Parker in the movie Bird. However, when production of another jazz film was halted because of a lack of funding, little is known about Eastwood coming to the financial aid of the film Straight No Chaser, a documentary about jazz icon pianist Thelonious Monk. Eastwood was instrumental in obtaining an investor who
stepped in with funds to finish the project. There have been other works featuring jazz in films that have been saved by Eastwood, including
Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends.

You can’t help but wonder how someone with Eastwood’s movie, directing and producing talents became involved with jazz. Having been raised in Oakland, Calif., Eastwood was introduced to the music scene early in life. As a youngster, he was exposed to Dixieland jazz and traditional jazz. When Bebop first began to come into the light, Eastwood had the opportunity to see jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie with a big band in San Francisco. He says that this was when he was drawn into the whole improvisational element. Eastwood’s musical education continued with his interest in the “Blues.” At the time, there was a lot of blues being played around Oakland, and Eastwood listened to his fair share. There were blues musicians like Ivory Joe Hunter, Joe Houston, Wynonie Harris, and Louis Jordan.

Sometime, in 1946, Eastwood attended one of the Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts to listen to tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Flip Phillips. To his pleasant surprise Charlie Parker was also on the bill and played as only he could play. Eastwood says that at the time he did not understand what Parker was playing but became interested in finding out.

As Eastwood musically matured, he began to delve deeper and deeper into the sound world of jazz and became a regular at the popular San Francisco jazz club the Blackhawk. It was there that he started listening to baritone saxophone player Gerry Mulligan and jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, pianist Dave Brubeck and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. Then, in the early 1950s while in the military service and stationed at Fort Ord, Calif., Eastwood got to meet jazz musicians who were also stationed there, such as pianist Andre Previn and alto saxophone player Lennie Niehaus. In 1958, Eastwood was able to attend his first Monterey Jazz Festival.

Eastwoods background in jazz is much more extensive than space allows and it all lent well to his film work directing and producing motion pictures. He admits to his love of all kinds of music – jazz, classical, country, and the blues. His musical interests has been partnered with his movie talents, and the next opportunity that you have to view one of Eastwood’s movies, pay close attention to the type of music background he’s included. You can be sure, you’ll be listening to great music – be it jazz, classical, country or the blues. As a staunch fan of jazz music, I’m more than pleased to know that there are those people who are dedicated to preserving this wonderful and exciting music called Jazz. By the way, before you ask – Eastwood is a pretty good jazz piano player!

Prognosis Of Jazz:

But will it be enough to bring jazz back to where it once was? Many people remark that this is not possible, nor would it be fitting considering the history and evolution of jazz. I would tend to agree with this statement, as jazz has taken on a different approach. Where is was once seen as popular music and a reflection of the times, its development has taken it down new avenues. While it continues to develop in new directions, it also seeks to reflect on and respect its past, paying homage to the predecessors who have contributed to its existence.

Whether or not jazz will gain popularity to the way it was once welcomed and honored remains to be seen. To make a plunge back into the mainstream of popular culture in today’s society would not only be a feat but would represent one of the greatest shifts of the last 100 years regarding people’s perception of good music. In all honesty, I do not see this happening. Nonetheless, it is still great to hear that celebrities like Clint Eastwood are out there spreading the world and doing their part to positively influence and educate others about jazz.

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  • Jon King said:


    I would like to pitch a new musical idea for stage or print to Mr. Eastwood. Can you give me a contact for him and/or contact info?

    Jon King


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