RiverRun 2016: Nathan East: For the Record


Maybe you’ve never heard of bassist Nathan East, but you’ve definitely listened to him.

Nathan East: For the Record focuses on East’s prodigious career in a conventional but heartwarming way. He’s credited with more than 2,000 album sessions over four decades, contributing bottom end on hits from Lionel Richie and Diana Ross’ “Endless Love” and Eric Clapton’s Unplugged to Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”

“It would be great […] if there was a list of all the tracks he’d played on, where you’d think, ‘My god, that was ’im… My god, that was him… My god, that was him,” says drummer Phil Collins.

Many of his collaborators contribute interviews extolling East’s talents, including jazz legend Herbie Hancock, country songbird Wynonna Judd, indispensable bandleader Quincy Jones and Clapton, who called East “the best bass player I’ve ever worked with.” The volume of testimonials trickling throughout may seem overkill, but when you know so little about the man, they add to his character’s depth.

nathan easyEast, aside from a legendary workhorse, is a charmer. Alongside the interviews and warm, grainy archival footage of live performances, the camera follows him in 2014 as he records his debut album, showing a casually joyful man chatting with old friends and goofily dancing to Van Morrison’s “Moondance” in his car. The documentary shows that, despite his famous pals and 10,000 studio hours, he’s a naturally humble, down-to-earth guy.

Session musicians don’t get much cred, but For the Record grants a deserved share to East.

Nathan East: For the Record, screens April 16 at 7 p.m. at Hanesbrands Theatre and April 17 at 2:30 p.m. at UNCSA Gold Theatre

— Anthony Harrison