Bassist Nathan East demonstrates mastery of smooth jazz approaches on “Reverence”


Few artists can claim to have played with artists as disparate as Andrea Bocelli and Eric Clapton, but Nathan East can. The bassist appears on a number of albums, but his latest, 2017’s “Reverence,” contains a variety of jazz gems that display a variety of styles, while also demonstrating the work of a veteran.

The long career of Nathan East

In addition to the soul and pop legends East has played with, the bassist played with Toto from 2010 to 2014. His genre-hopping career started 40 years before. According to the bassist’s website, East is “a founding member of the chart-topping contemporary jazz group, “Fourplay.” Further, the website explained that East was still a teenager when he toured with soul legend Barry White. A fateful phone call from Quincy Jones kept East constantly in demand. Eventually, East’s career would include stints with Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Barbra Streisand and Stevie Wonder.

All of this work has done more than keep East busy. He earned an Ivor Novello Award for Most Performed Work for the catchy hit, “Easy Lover, ” by Phillip Bailey and Phil Collins. In addition, East was inducted into the Tech Awards Hall of Fame in 2015. Also in 2015, East was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album for his self-titled album.

East has played on more than 2,000 albums. The wording on his website claims that people have heard East’s work whether they knew it or not. A look at the list of albums and soundtracks East has played on proves that statement true. The list is dizzying.

Of the many albums that East enjoys credits for, only a few belong to him. His latest album, “Reverence,” was released less than one year ago. The songs, “Elevenate,” and “Why Not This Sunday,” are brilliant in their demonstration of East’s skill and artistry.

“Elevenate” by Nathan East

The song opens with a gentle but energetic guitar. The instrument paints the soundscape with a soft base of acoustic strings. The percussion is gentle, too. The groove keeps the song from being “sleepy.”

A whisper of vocals breezes through. Meanwhile, the bass plays an understated line and gets a smooth showcase. The song takes on a lilt that wasn’t there at the beginning, but nothing, not the instrumentation nor the vocals ever gets loud.

“Why Not This Sunday” by Nathan East, featuring Ruben Studdard

The soulful bounce of this track makes the most of East’s pliable basslines and the former “American Idol” finalist’s voice. Studdard sings the lead. The song with its advice for changing a person’s mindset about love quickly becomes an example of fun, smooth jazz. It manages to be “fun” without sounding gimmicky.

The bouncy bass line is replicated in the piano groove. The backup singers echo and play up the lead vocalist’s part, and the whole song moves with exuberant style toward its logical conclusion.

East’s work on “Reverence” shows a commitment to the art and traditions of jazz. The album should prove interesting to a broad spectrum of jazz fans, but particularly those who like smooth, sometimes pop-oriented jazz.

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