More so than Woody Allen and Robert Altman, Clint Eastwood is the premiere cinematic connoisseur of jazz. Shot at Carnegie hall on October 17, 1996, Eastwood After Hours brought together veteran and contemporary jazz musicians to celebrate the music of Eastwood’s many films. Where Allen seemingly incorporates the same two or three great jazz anthems into every one of his films, every piece used in an Eastwood film has an inner life all its own. While Eastwood After Hours rarely leaves the Carnegie Hall stage, frequent cutaways to clips from Eastwood’s films evocatively (and sometimes humorously) celebrate the effect of good jazz music slapped atop images of haunting western landscapes, smoke-filled clubs and the sexy, turbulent relationships between men and women. Jessica Walters’s psycho Evelyn Draper from Play Misty for Me screams “You’re not even good in bed,” set to the tunes of “Misty,” performed by Kenny Barron and Barry Harris. Cutaways to Misty, Unforgiven and The Bridges of Madison County ponder jazz’s emotional wide-range—this is bottled sex, mournful western lullaby and the wail of a repressed heart. While Bruce Ricker’s direction is relatively unspontaneous, he frequently livens the proceedings by cutting to close-ups of hands strumming their musical instruments, most notable during The Kyle Eastwood Quartet’s performance of “This Time The Dream’s On Me” from Bird, Eastwood’s love poem to Charlie Parker. Several of the night’s pieces are followed by studio commentary from Eastwood himself, who sat in the audience the night of the show. A person who associates falling in love with the sounds of amplified bass knows his music. Eastwood has never encountered a type of jazz he didn’t like and it shows.
The DVD of Eastwood After Hours is a classy, no frills presentation. Sound is key here and the disc's mono soundtrack surprisingly captures the full-range of the night's many performances. At the very least, Ricker can mic his musicians better then he can shoot them. And while the concert's image may look less than stellar, more disappointing are the clips from earlier Eastwood works like Play Misty for Me. The quality is less than stellar but who cares when the effect is this smooth?
Included here are production notes and biography for director Bruce Ricker, who worked as a music consultant on Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County. A jazz aficionado in his own right, Ricker previously produced a documentary on Thelonious Monk called Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser and directed a celebration of Kansas City jazz called The Last of the Blue Devils. "Hootie's Blues" appeared in the former, "Straight No Chaser" and "'Round Midnight" on the latter-all three songs are performed live on Eastwood After Hours. A ten-minute making-of featurette finds the night's many musicians, including Eastwood's son Kyle, ruminating on everything from Clint's love of jazz to the evolution of the genre since the days of Dizzy Gillespie.
Eastwood is the selling point here but this one is for the jazz fans.