Nathan East… There are very few bassists, if any, that I will actually draw upon a quote from their site to initiate an introduction about them. But Nathan East will be my exception… he quotes:
“I’ve made friends and music quite beyond anything I might have imagined. I love my life”.
A quick look at this mans discography gives total credence to his opening comment on his site, not to mention it’s almost a lesson in itself on musicianship. This is my second interview with Nathan over the years, and I still manage to get to that “How does one attain that type of musical diversity, popularity, and longevity in this business”? Few attain this, and even fewer excel at it. Add to that the release of Fourplay’s latest CD, Lets Touch the Sky, their “12th” release, which is #1 on Billboards Contemporary Jazz Chart, and…well…what can I say. Good luck matching a career like Nate’s with those kind of experiences and stats…what a testament to this player’s love of his art.
To the younger players out there…watch him and learn. Nathan East is an enigma in this business, referring to the positive aspect of that particular noun…the embodiment of a decade’s long truly successful career, a tough one to pull off in this industry. As you’ll read, he’s a man of few words. But his comments need nothing added to them, they’re right to the point…actually, very akin to his basslines. Less is more at its best.
Jake: Fourplay, who you’ve been with since its inception, has just released their latest CD Let’s Touch The Sky, which I believe is your 13th release. What in your eyes contributes to the longevity of this ensemble…not an easy task in this business?
Nathan: Yes, I think it’s officially our 12th CD and I’m amazed after twenty years together how much fun we continue to have in this quartet. One of the contributing factors to the longevity is the great rapport we have between us and each member’s ongoing desire to keep the standards and levels of creativity high.
Jake: How do you feel the entry of Chuck Loeb, replacing guitarist Larry Carlton, has affected Fourplay’s direction?
Nathan: Larry and Chuck are both great players! Where Larry leans more toward the blues, Chuck pulls the group more toward a jazz direction. We’ve been very fortunate to have such great guitarists in this band!
Jake: Bob James made the statement: “All four of us have been in the business long enough to know that there’s always pressure to compromise”. Could you give me your take on how the business seems to exert this pressure Bob speaks of?
Nathan: I think we all understand the nature of the business and the balance between art and commerce. Sometimes there is pressure to “dumb down” creatively for the sake of moving more units and that’s where you run the risk of contributing to the society of mediocrity.
Jake: What in your opinion needs to happen both musically and compositionally to keep the band progressing, raising the bands standards to yet another level?
Nathan: As we perform more together, we discover new directions and understand each other’s levels of musicianship. This helps us know how far to stretch when we go to compose for the band. Ultimately the challenge is to come up with music that combines virtuosity, elegance and romance in keeping with the Fourplay tradition.
Jake: Your personal tracks for this CD seem, I guess I’ll say a perfect compliment to each individual composition. Can you put into words how you approach a track to attain that type of result?
Nathan: Thank you. I try to see the big picture and approach every song as a new work of art in constant search for the right colors, notes and personality.
Jake: To say that experience is in your corner as a player is almost an understatement. Beyond that experience, what do you feel are the elements that keep your playing at such a musically high level?
Nathan: Well, thank you again for the compliment. The more I learn the more realize how much there is to learn. I continue to be inspired by the musicianship of lots of players. For me, like in sports, just being around great players keeps your level of musicianship high.
Nathan: Yes it does however I’ve been letting the music of Fourplay represent to an extent what I would do on my own. I love the collaboration with the guys and their input always takes my music to another level. That said, a solo project is definitely one of the things on my list that I have yet to do in my career.
Jake: The need to diversify as a player these days in my opinion is essential. This is most certainly one of your strengths as you’ve played with the best of the best in the pop, rock, and jazz idioms. Any secret per se in your mind to pass along to help a player position themselves for attaining that kind of personal musicianship?
Nathan: I realized a long time ago that diversity would be essential to a long career. Just like investing, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. Three’s really no secret, it’s primarily exposure to as many different styles and genres that helps you navigate the playing field. I still feel like a student and continue to study all types of music.
Jake: What can we look forward to in 2011 that you’re involved in?
Nathan: Fourplay will tour in support of this CD. I’m also producing some new music for Anita Baker’s upcoming CD. Toto has asked me to join them for their tour dates in Japan and Europe. Looks like another fun year of music ahead!
Visit online at www.nathaneast.com