One of seven children, Yamaha bass artist Nathan East began playing the cello in his junior high school orchestra; at 14 he switched to bass guitar, inspired by his older brother's David's guitar playing, and they soon began playing for local church groups and folk masses with their oldest brother Raymond (vocalist), who is now Pastor/Monsignor of St.Teresa of Avila in Washington, D.C. East also played in the high school jazz ensemble, marching band, choir, chorus, pep band and local top 40 bands. From a musical family, Nathan has two younger brothers James East, bassist (Sergio Mendes, Lionel Richie, Toni Braxton), and Marcel East, guitarist/songwriter/producer working with Nathan on Fourplay and miscellaneous projects.
East's early influences included Motown's legendary bass ace James Jamerson and other bass greats such as Paul McCartney, Chuck Rainey, Jack Bruce of Cream, Larry Graham, Tower of Power's Rocco Prestia and Verdine White of Earth Wind & Fire. He practiced by playing along with the recordings of jazz bassists Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Charles Mingus, Buster Williams and Scott LaFaro.
The practice has paid off, and earlier this year he was awarded a Congressional Record from the United States Congress House of Representatives, recognizing him as a distinguished member of the music industry. Entitled "A Tribute to the Jazz Great Nathan East," he was singled out for his outstanding achievements and for offering his "talents and services for the betterment of our local and global communities."
A. Robert Brown, senior advisor to Congressman Ed Towns of New York, presented the honor to East during a Fourplay concert performance in Philadelphia. Congress also recognized Fourplay for their contributions to the industry worldwide, presenting them a Congressional Record as well. Presently Fourplay is the only group in history to receive this recognition.
"On behalf of everyone at Yamaha we'd like to congratulate Nathan and Fourplay. We are extremely proud to call Nathan a Yamaha artist and couldn't think of a finer musician or better person to receive this prestigious honor," comments Terry Lewis, executive vice president of Yamaha Corporation of America.
East's breakthrough came while he was a member of a local band called Power. They were booked as the house band for a Stax revue that featured several major recording artists. One of those artists was singer Barry White. Impressed with what he heard, White hired the entire band for his national tour in 1973. East, still a teenager, became the youngest member of the Love Unlimited Orchestra ("Love's Theme'"), playing The Apollo Theater, Madison Square Garden, Kennedy Center and other major venues throughout the U.S. He was soon noticed by veteran writer/arranger Gene Page, whom East had worked with on White's recording sessions. Impressed with East's ability to read music as well as his diverse playing skills, Page used East on most of his projects, including recordings for Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston, Madonna, Dionne Warwick and Michael Jackson.
As Nathan's reputation on the Los Angeles session scene grew, so did his job calls. He did sessions for Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Kenny Rogers, Quincy Jones and Kenny Loggins. He toured with Loggins, appearing with the singer at Live Aid in 1985. Eric Clapton heard East and invited him to join his band; with keyboardist Greg Phillinganes and drummer Phil Collins, they toured the world over and performed multiple concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall, which resulted in the release of Clapton's "24 Nights" CD. With Clapton, East went on to record numerous albums, including "Journeyman," "August," "Behind The Sun," "Pilgrim," "Reptile," 1997 Song of the Year "Change The World," and the Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum "MTV Unplugged."
In 1990, East was one of four musicians along with Bob James, Harvey Mason and Lee Ritenour (Larry Carlton, currently), that formed the super group, Fourplay. The quartet has had phenomenal success, winning several Grammy nominations, multi-platinum sales around the world and a record breaking 32 weeks at the #1 position on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts. Seventeen years later, Fourplay's tenth CD, "X," debuted at number one and features (Yamaha Artist) Michael McDonald singing the classic Steve Winwood single, "My Love's Leavin'."
"I consider myself very fortunate to play with some of the finest musicians in the business," says East. "All the players and bands I've worked with have musically been very satisfying. I've been on some fantastic tours with great artists and bands, and we have a great time on and off the stage. To this day, I'm having some of the most fun that I have ever had performing as a current member of the Herbie Hancock Quartet!"
When asked about his longevity in the notoriously unpredictable music business, East noted, "I have tried to keep my standards high and I bring a positive spirit to work with me. I come prepared for whatever the job calls for and try to maintain a compelling level of performance. I also make it a point to get along well with everyone I work with, as there is so much networking in this business and word of mouth can really work for you ...or against you! Just after moving to L.A. in 1980, my accountant told me that a musician's career usually only lasts about three to five years and that I should plan financially for that amount of time. That really got my attention, and I've spent the last 27 years trying to disprove his theory. Quincy Jones once told me, ‘play every gig like it's your first, and live every day like it's your last.' That's great advice and I'm really happy to put in the hard work that it takes to keep it all going."
In 1991 East was voted the Most Valuable Player in the bass category at the International Rock Awards (nominees included Sting, Paul McCartney, Stanley Clarke and Ron Wood). He also won Britain's prestigious Ivor Novello Award for co-writing the number one hit song "Easy Lover" with Phil Collins and Philip Bailey. He is three-time recipient of the National Smooth Jazz Award for Bassist of the Year. The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences has awarded East Emeritus status for winning the most consecutive years as MVP Bassist. He also has numerous ASCAP Awards for songwriting.
In addition to his touring and recording schedule, Nathan currently dedicates his talents and services to the betterment of local and global communities, and supporting and performing for numerous charities, including the Andre Agassi Foundation for Children, Sting's Rainforest Foundation, The David Foster Foundation and Muhammad Ali's Celebrity Fight Night, which raises funds and awareness for Parkinson's research.
Nathan holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music from the University of California at San Diego. He has released an instructional video, Contemporary Electric Bass, and instructional DVD, The Business of Bass, distributed By Hal Leonard.
A long time Yamaha artist, East relies on his BBNE2 signature 5-string bass, which he developed with Yamaha, to deliver the tone he needs in the studio and on tour. When the upright bass sound is called for, East plays his SVB-200 Silent Bass. He recounts his first experience with Yamaha instruments saying, "I remember seeing Abraham Laboriel (a mentor of mine) at a recording session in L.A. and the sound of his bass was so warm and round. Of course his playing was amazing, and he gladly showed me his bass, which was a Yamaha BB1000 – I had to have one! My first Yamaha bass was a red sunburst BB1000 and I fell madly in love with it. It's been Yamaha for me ever since. I really enjoy the feel and tone of Yamaha instruments which come ‘record ready' right out of the case. There is a very musical quality that I enjoy in my Yamaha basses."
"For me, the career rewards are the long term friendships I've established with people I've worked with," concludes East. "I enjoy many of the exciting environments that I have performed in, like Superbowl Halftime, Oscar and Grammy Award shows, Presidential Inaugurations, and playing venues like Carnegie Hall and London's Royal Albert Hall. The travel to different parts of the world, the private jets, the musical magic - what a life I've been blessed with!"