Directors: Chris Gero/David Maxwell
Yamaha Entertainment Group of America/New Wave Entertainment Television
What started out, clearly, as a digital press-kit component to Nathan East’s debut solo album gets stretched beyond EPK and into feature-length documentary film. Understandable when you play into the film’s tagline that Nathan East is the most recorded musician you don’t know you’ve already heard.
A session bassist from the age of 16 – when he first went on the road with Barry White, East has played with almost every huge name in pop music. He has writing and production credits, is a multi-instrumentalist and backing vocalist but it’s his work as a bass player that has made his name. On the road and on the record with Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones, Daft Punk and so many others…East has, for over 30 years, been one of the go-to guys.
The documentary succeeds because it’s incredible to see the full roll-call. The documentary stalls when you realise the soulless occupation that is the session musician; East espouses Christian values and flashes a nice smile, his liquid-funk is smooth and light and usually right but there’s no grit, no oomph and no real road-stories; you don’t get work with everyone by telling tales out of class. So this starts to feel like the world’s longest video CV and never quite transcends the EPK-notion.
That the album he made was so mind-numbingly polite and average doesn’t help to sell this; nor does the fact that the documentary is two years old. But, none of that will stop musicians and music-fans from heading along to view this version of The Working Life on the big screen. The film manages to exist on a level that matches a lot of East’s own recorded work, just right for the space it is trying to occupy – and you give it almost no thought immediately after consuming.
Nathan East: For The Record is part of this year’s Documentary Edge Festival in New Zealand. The festival’s films screen in Wellington May 4-5, 2016 and in Auckland May 18-29, 2016.