CARMEL, California (Reuters) - Clint Eastwood is well-known for his tough guy acting roles and has developed directing as a second career, but he has another passion that tends to get less attention -- jazz.
Eastwood, 77, directed a biopic of Charlie “Bird” Parker in 1988 and is now making a documentary about pianist Dave Brubeck.
Eastwood, a pianist himself who received an honorary doctorate of music from the Berklee College of Music, spoke to Reuters about his interest in jazz that dates back to his youth in the San Francisco area during the 1940s:
Q: When did your passion for jazz start?
A: “I love the music, loved it as a kid. I was always out of the mainstream, even though jazz was more mainstream in the ‘40s. Jazz had terrific popularity at that time but I was always looking for some obscure musician to follow. It was I think first Lester Young who I thought was the greatest, then Charlie Parker, then Dave Brubeck.”
Q: You’ve worked on a number of documentaries spotlighting jazz legends. What draws you to such projects?
A:. “I’m interested in promoting this great American art form, true American art form, and keep it going. I like all types of music. I like classical, I like country, any type of music you can name. Maybe I’m not nuts about rap, but generally I can tolerate most music.”
Q: Thanks to the Internet, some of your old country tunes are easily found now, the cowboy ones and things like that.
A: “Well, I did the ‘Honkytonk Man’ and things like that, pictures like that where I played down-and-out musicians and various characters like that.”
Q. Did you ever want to be a musician?
A: “When I was a kid I played a lot but then I got away from that and became an actor. I guess I went to where I was supposed to go. You could always look back and say, ‘Geez, if I only practiced more.’ I could say that about the trumpet, which I played a little bit too. I always tell kids you can go out for football or basketball or all of those things, but this is something you can do your whole life ... It’s not something that is a two-year deal.”
Q: I read an old interview from 1985 in which you said you had some regrets that you didn’t follow up on music.
A: “Oh yeah. You listen to (pianists) Bill Evans and Art Tatum and all these people and you think, yeah, you always wonder if you could put in the work.”
Q. Did you play in an Oakland bar in the late 1940s?
A: “Yes, I played at the Omar Club on Broadway. Whenever I went in there and I played I could eat for free, drink beer for free and I’d get tips and stuff.”
Q. Is there a common denominator for success in film and jazz?
A: “Musicians must get up every night and perform in front of audiences and stuff. I guess some nights you probably don’t like it. Directing films, some days you feel, ah, I don’t feel like doing this today but you’ve got to go in and you suit up. The same thing for any kind of performer.”
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