Feb. 15, 2017
From Ronald Jackson’s Dictionary (Smooth Jazz edition) – BAADD (adj.) — A one-word description of the super-prolific, always stellar, top-tier bass master Nathan East. Yes, I think I like that. East remains one musician – no, artist – who never fails to leave me in speechless awe of his work. Having gone pro at age 16, this ever-personable cat has worked with some of the biggest names EVER in music (Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Anita Baker, Babyface, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, and, of course, the standalone supergroup Fourplay – for starters), netting him over 2,000 album credits. That his two solo albums (the 2014 self-titled debut and this latest called Reverence) have moved the musical terrain like a massive earthquake comes as no surprise to me at all.
Reverence is packed with tight, professional, eclectic originals and crazily innovative covers. This CD is bound for the skies to again illuminate the universe with stirring incomparable grooves.
Speaking of covers, there’s a cool story behind the creative cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Serpentine Fire,” It turns out that East, along with his brother Marcel and legends Eric Clapton and Phil Collins, recorded a version of the EWF hit back in 1991. It lay dormant until this year when it was discovered in vocal nightingale Patti Austin’s basement. Philip Bailey, Verdine White, and Ralph Johnson of EWF added some finishing touches on the track, and it appears here in all its glowing glory.
“Serpentine Fire” is certainly not the only track of note on this magnificent work. You absolutely must check out such other tracks as the sexy cover of EWF’s “Love’s Holiday” featuring Bailey, the cool up-tempo “Lifecycle” (a track originally intended for his first album but was omitted because there wasn’t room. It features the late drummer Ricky Lawson), the suave & mellow “Elevenate” featuring the jazzy silkiness of Chuck Loeb’s guitar, the sweet cover of Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home” featuring the feathery vocals of Yolanda Adams, the mega-funky cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” featuring Kirk Whalum on sax, and the wonderful father-son musical connection on “Over the Rainbow” featuring East’s son Noah on piano.
The many facets of East are clearly on display here – from the sophistication of some traditional jazz leanings to some to some bouncy R&B (check out Ruben Studdard’s contribution on “Why Not This Sunday”) to doses of fusion and raw funk. As can be always expected, it’s all handled with that Nathan East meticulous approach to musical excellence. Solid effort indeed. – Ronald Jackson