Bassist Nathan East’s resume reads like a music industry who’s who.
East, a founding member of renowned, contemporary jazz quartet Fourplay, also is one of the world’s most in-demand bassists with credits that include Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins and Whitney Houston.
East’s sophomore solo album, Reverence, is a collection of original tracks and cover material spanning the R&B, pop, rock and jazz songbook. Included is a scorching cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Serpentine Fire,” originally recorded in 1991 and featuring Eric Clapton on guitar and Phil Collins on drums. There’s also a soul-stirring interpretation of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that features East’s 16-year-old son, Noah, on piano.
I recently spoke with East about Reverence, his time performing with Eric Clapton, his gear and more.
Did you have a particular musical direction in mind for Reverence?
I always try to go in one direction, and it’s the same with Fourplay and all of the other projects I work on. You always try to go for sonic excellence. The idea is to keep the bar high in terms of quality and sound.
How did you determine what material to use for this project?
It’s a little more of a challenge as a bass player because you have to play bass and then any lead bass is in addition to it. So it’s actually two separate sets of basses on there. The idea is to find songs that lend themselves to that format in writing or covering. You always want to come up with something that will translate to the bass. The other thing I like to do is make records that are song-based and not just chops. Songs that touch a nerve or someone’s heart is also a big criteria.
Your cover of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Serpentine Fire” actually began 25 years ago. How did it come about?
That was originally a project I was working on with my brother called Two Faces of East. We were living together at the time and doing work in the studio, and that particular song was one that we put together. Coincidentally, it was also when I was working with Phil Collins and Eric Clapton. I remember we flew over to England and asked if they’d like to lend their talents.
Sure enough, they put their stamp on it. We pretty much finished it up, but the project never got a deal and the song wound up sitting around in a basement on 2-inch tape.
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