Nathan East will be unable to perform at the 58th annual Grammy Awards telecast Monday night because he will be performing at the 58th annual Grammy Awards telecast Monday night.
If that sounds like a musical paradox, well, that’s par for the course for this veteran bassist, arranger, singer and producer. Over the past four decades, he’s played on hundreds of albums by some of the biggest names in pop, rock, R&B, jazz, country, blues, gospel, EDM and more. He’s also performed several times on both the Grammy and Oscars telecasts.
In early January, East committed to perform during the 31/2 -hour Grammy telecast with Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan, John Legend, Demi Lovato and Meghan Trainor as part of a salute to Richie. In late January, East was invited to perform with Lady Gaga and Nile Rodgers during their Grammy tribute to the recently deceased David Bowie.
“Sadly, I can’t do both,” said East, a graduate of Crawford High School and the University of California San Diego.
Conflicting rehearsal times led the versatile bassist to decline the invitation from Rodgers, with whom East played as a member of French EDM duo Daft Punk’s live band during the 2014 Grammy telecast. Both musicians were prominently featured on “Random Access Memories,” which earned Daft Punk the 2014 Album of the Year Grammy. East and Rodgers were joined by Stevie Wonder and Pharrell Williams for their Grammy performance with Daft Punk.
The bassist first performed at the Grammys with Kenny Loggins in 1985. He returned in 1993 with Eric Clapton, in whose band East has performed over much of the past three decades. He is featured on a number of Clapton’s albums, including the Grammy-winning “MTV Unplugged” and Clapton’s Grammy-winning joint albums with B.B. King and former San Diegan J.J. Cale.
In addition, East has performed with Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand and Phil Collins at MusiCares, the annual all-star benefit concerts held by the Recording Academy, under whose auspices the Grammys are produced. Launched 26 years ago, MusiCares raises money to help musicians in need with personal, medical and financial emergencies.
This Saturday’s edition of MusiCares will be held, as in previous years, next to Staples Center at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The honoree is Lionel Richie. The artists who will perform his songs include Wonder, Legend, Bryan, Rihanna, Dave Grohl, Lady Antebellum, Florence Welch, Ellie Goulding and nearly a dozen more.
East will be the bassist for the MusiCares rehearsals this week. As a result, he’ll be dashing between his Grammy telecast and MusiCares rehearsals. To further complicate matters, East is doing the telecast and the MusiCares rehearsals, but not Saturday’s MusiCares performance.
“Conveniently, the rehearsals don’t conflict,” he said, laughing. “That’s the story of my life! Fortunately the Staples Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center are next door to each other. I’ll have different amps and basses at each location, so I can just dash back and forth.”
When East hasperformed at previous editions of the Grammys and MusiCares, does he ever look out from the stage to see who’s sitting in the front rows?
“I’m 100 percent aware of it, because you’re not always playing,” he said. “And, when you’re not, there’s time to have a look at the room. It’s fun. ‘Oh, there’s Katy Perry!’ ‘There’s Beyonce!’ ‘There’s Steven Tyler!’ ‘There’s Ringo!’ ‘There’s Paul McCartney!’ It’s like a Who’s Who, and it’s pretty exciting.”
East is too modest to note that he counts Beyonce, Ringo and Aerosmith singer Tyler among his past collaborators.
Then again, he has worked with such an array of stars over the years — from Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, George Harrison and Herbie Hancock to Iron Maiden, Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Joe Satriani, Earth, Wind & Fire. and many more — that it’s understandably a challenge to keep track of them all.
In March, East will fly to Miami to play a concert with another longtime collaborator, Phil Collins, whom he bonded several decades ago when they toured as members of Clapton’s band.
Clapton has cited East as one of his three favorite bassists. Recording Academy honcho Neil Portnow is also a fan.
“Nathan is one of the finest bass players on the planet,” Portnow said. “He’s somebody who I think anybody that plays bass in the modern era would look up to, admire and covet the creativity and contributions that he’s made to the art of the instrument, and to popular music.”
Apart from his upcoming Miami gig with Collins, East is keeping his schedule open so that he can plan and record his second solo album. It will be the sequel to his debut solo album, 2014’s self-titled “Nathan East,” which featured such musical pals as Wonder, Clapton, Michael McDonald, Bob James and Ray Parker, Jr.
“Nathan East” earned a 2015 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. By coincidence, the Grammy in that category last year instead went to another former San Diegan, mandolin wizard Chris Thile, who shared in a win for “Bass and Mandolin,” a song from his most duo album with Edgar Meyer .
Prior to last year, East had been nominated for a Grammy on multiple occasions as a member of Fourplay, the all-star pop-jazz quartet he co-founded in 1991 with James, Larry Carlton and Harvey Mason.
“Fourplay has been nominated at least six times, and it’s just the of the draw regarding what category you’re nominated in,” noted East, a veteran member of the Recording Academy. “One year it was in the Best Pop Instrumental category. And that was the year the Eagles one instrumental song. It was about 90 seconds long. And if the Eagles do an instrumental and get nominated, they’ll win! I may have even voted for them!
“One year, Peter Frampton was nominated in our category, and he won. And if you’re ever up in the same category as (jazz guitar great) Pat Metheny, don’t even go. Stay home! I think he’s had well over 20 Grammy wins, and he deserves every one of them.”
“Of course, if you win a Grammy, it’s the greatest thing ever. If you don’t, people say: ‘This wasn’t fair!’ The big picture is the Grammys shine a light on a lot of different kinds of music and artists, and not everyone can win.”
6 a.m. Feb. 11, 2016|