Careers characterized by longevity often point to an artist’s propensity for reinvention. However, in the case of bass player Nathan East, his burgeoning success can, in part, be explained by the way he has embraced differing genres and in doing so established touch points with different audiences that are united by a common appreciation of his playing.
Take for instance the ‘soulsters’ who discovered East, still in his teens, playing his part in Barry White’s powerhouse Love Unlimited Orchestra. They weren’t the only ones as writer and arranger Gene Page (which whom East had worked on White’s recording sessions) quickly spotted his talent and used him on numerous projects, including those for Dionne Warwick and Johnny Mathis.
With a growing reputation on the LA music scene East became the go-to bass-man for the likes of Norman Connors, Phyllis Hyman, James Ingram, George Benson, Anita Baker and Lionel Richie. In the late eighties he was part of Eric Clapton's touring band and his playing can also be heard on classics such as Dennis Edwards' ‘Don't Look Any Further’ and the Anita Baker smash ‘Fairy Tales’." In terms of writing credits East scored a notable success when co-writing (and playing on) the Philip Bailey and Phil Collins' Grammy-nominated ‘Easy Lover’.
In 1990 another scene (and another audience) beckoned as, whilst working on Bob James’ highly acclaimed ‘Grand Piano Canyon’, James asked him, along with Lee Ritenour and Harvey Mason, if they would be interested in forming what went to become the contemporary jazz super-group Fourplay. The band’s eponymous first CD sold half a million copies while the 1993 follow-up, ‘Between The Sheets’, reached number one, went gold, and received a Grammy nomination. Fourplay’s third project, ‘Elixir’ enjoyed similar success and in fact with twelve albums now to its name this cool collective remains at the forefront of what might be regarded as ‘high-end’ smooth jazz.
This would be enough for most musicians but Nathan East has rarely just gone with the flow. In 2013 he found yet another audience though his involvement with the Daft Punk venture ‘Random Access Memories’ that won Album of the Year at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony.
Although a long time coming, in March 2014 East released his first solo recording on which he is joined by musical luminaries (and old friends) such as Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald, Eric Clapton, Ray Parker, Jr., and Greg Phillinganes. The first single from it to be serviced to radio is the groove drenched ‘Daft Funk’ that not only tips a hat to the Daft Punk connection but also demonstrates what East, as a player, is all about.
Nathan East’s self-titled album is out now and comes highly recommended.