He has played and/or performed with everyone from Toto, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson to Eric Clapton, Beyoncé, Andrea Bocelli and Daft Punk. Now popular session bassist Nathan East is recording his first solo album. The yet-untitled set -- the first in a planned two-volume project -- is due March 25, 2014 from Yamaha Entertainment Group.
"It's a celebration of my musical friends and my musical life over 30 years' worth of experiences and influences," says East during a recording break at Los Angeles' Ocean Way Studios. "The one thing I've learned is that I love a collaborative effort, the spirit of making music with a lot of great musicians in the room."
Produced by East and Yamaha Entertainment founder Chris Gero, the ADA-distributed album will be a mix of originals and reimagined covers traversing East's work in R&B, pop, rock and jazz. The covers include a tribute to Wonder on "Sir Duke," Pat Metheny's "Letter From Home" and "101 Eastbound" by Fourplay, in which East is a founding member.
Guest artists and musicians include Wonder on harmonica, Michael McDonald, Bob James and Sara Bareilles. East—a Barry White protégé— is also hoping to have Clapton play on a cover of "Can't Find My Way Back Home" and is "still trying to pull in Anita Baker on something." Core band members on the recording include keyboardist Jeff Babko from "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and Toto's David Paich. Also in the mix: a making-of documentary.
Beyond his solo work, East remains busier than ever on the session front. He wrote and produced on Baker's upcoming Blue Note album as well as recorded a tribute to J.J. Cale with Clapton. He has also been working on various projects with producer/Verve chairman David Foster. And also with producer Babyface: "We did 'Ride Like the Wind' for 'Anchorman 2,'" says East. Next month, he'll join Fourplay for a week at New York's Blue Note.
Then there's his stint on Daft Punk's international hit "Get Lucky" plus additional tracks from the act's "Random Access Memories" album. The gig tapped directly into his collaborative spirit.
"That blew up bigger than I ever could have imagined," says East with a laugh. "When I walked into the studio, they had all these vintage keyboards and tape machines spinning in the back of the room. And the first thing they said was, 'We want to go retro.' It was cool that they thought enough of me and, of course, Nile Rodgers and Paul Jackson Jr. for this. The funk was just jumping off the tape. You couldn't hold it back."