The former San Diegan is one of the most in-demand bassists of the past 30 years
By George Varga | utsandiego.com
Get out of town!
It was while earning his degree in music at UC San Diego in the late 1970s that budding bass guitar great Nathan East received perhaps the best advice anyone has given him.
“My two mentors were Bert Turetzky, who I rigorously studied upright bass with, and Cecil Lytle, who really took me under his wing,” East, also a Crawford High School graduate, recalled. recalled. “They were two of the best teachers I ever had. Bert’s big advice for me was to move to Los Angeles and to jump in with both feet.”
Given how fruitful his subsequent career has been, it might appear to casual observers that East jumped in with far more than just two feet.
After heading to Los Angeles in 1979, he quickly became one of the most prolific, diverse and in-demand bassists anywhere.
It’s a status he has maintained ever since, whether touring the world with Eric Clapton for nearly 20 years, accompanying a slew of legends at President Obama’s inauguration concert or serving as the musical director for music legend Quincy Jones’ recent all-star career retrospective concert at the Hollywood Bowl.
“To this day, I’m way busier than I ever thought would be possible,” said East, whose recent credits include recording sessions with Stevie Wonder, Michael Bublé and Daft Punk.
“In the busiest of times, I can remember doing as many as 28 (recording) sessions in a week. Even when I (only) averaged three sessions a day, that still came out to more than 700 a year.”
But it is the quality of his performances, not their quantity, that has helped East stand out for more than 30 years.
“Musically, Nathan is in (my) Top 3 as a bassist,” Clapton said in a 2005 U-T San Diego interview. “He’s the most supportive and caring musician I’ve met.”
He is also an accomplished vocalist. During East’s long tenure in Clapton’s band, he would perform lead vocals on the Blind Faith classic “Can’t Find My Way Home” (a role originally handled by Steve Winwood).
East performs two shows in San Diego with the pop-jazz band Fourplay on Friday, Nov. 2, at downtown’s all-ages Anthology. He co-founded the chart-topping group in 1991 with keyboardist Bob James, drummer Harvey Mason and guitarist Lee Ritenour (whose role is now ably filled by Chuck Loeb).
The veteran bassist’s ability to play with skill, sensitivity and just the right touch are key reasons he has thrived for so long. The fact that he is widely regarded as a genuinely nice guy is another. Then there’s his impressive versatility, which has enabled him to shine whether playing with such jazz luminaries as Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter or with Rock and Roll Hall of Famers like George Harrison and Rod Stewart.
Yet, it’s likely that many pop music fans are familiar with East’s impeccable bass playing even if they don’t recognize his name. That’s because he has made indelible contributions to such ubiquitous songs as Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” (which he performed with Loggins at the 1985 Live Aid concert) and the 1984 Phil Collins/Phillip Bailey hit, “Easy Lover” (which East co-wrote).
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