Take Five With Greg Nathan

Greg Nathan By

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Meet Greg Nathan:
Greg Nathan began his professional bass-playing career in 1972 at the age of seventeen, performing popular jazz music with pianist Chuck Ruff and vocalist Donna Courtell. He completed his Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree at the University of Oregon in 1977. Greg earned a Master of Arts in Music degree at California State University, Sacramento in 1982. He is in his thirtieth season with the Eugene Symphony. His teacher is Larry Epstein, Assistant Principal of the San Francisco Symphony.

Greg is an accomplished composer of songs and serious music. He sings, plays, and uses the bow during popular jazz music performances. Greg is the leader of the jazz duo "Aftermath," joined by world-class jazz guitarist Mike Denny. Aftermath performances occur at Eugene's Hilton Hotel. Greg has performed with Nancy King, the late Charles Dowd, Paul Biondi, Tom Shove, Bill Sabol, Vikki Brabham, Gus Russell, Alan Tarpinnian, Jessie Marquez, and others.

After retiring from fifteen years of full-time classroom teaching in the public schools, Greg has recently become active in financial services, having earned his license to sell life insurance and securities. He is currently endeavoring to build a financial service business while continuing his music and education interests.

Greg has hopes of returning to teaching should the right opportunity present itself. Greg is also a caring husband, father, and active member of his church.

Double Bass, Voice, Piano

Teachers and/or influences?
At the age of about six, my dad, Chuck, gave me trumpet lessons. I learned to play a Bb major scale. I can remember bringing a trumpet mouthpiece to school and using it to entertain my friends. When one of them informed the teacher what I was doing, she had me perform for the class. I'm sure my lipping a Harry James solo Chuck used to play, using just a mouthpiece, probably didn't sound so great, but the kids loved it!

The point is, Chuck was my teacher from the beginning. I went nearly nowhere with the trumpet, but what Chuck, well over a decade later, taught me at the piano, became the object of much attention from me throughout the rest of my life.

To know who the greatest musical influences were on me, I just might as well tell you about who Chuck's greatest musical influences were, instead of my own, because Chuck has been the biggest musical influence on me.

For the most part, I agreed with Chuck's tastes in jazz, especially when it came to the supremacy of Art Tatum at the piano. He favored Coleman Hawkins on tenor sax, and although I love Coleman, I claim Ben Webster as my favorite jazz, tenor-saxophonist.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
One day, early in my life, Chuck pointed out to me the miracle of the inner ear. He shared with me his marvel at how anytime a person wanted to listen to their favorite music in their head, they could do so. He had me close my eyes and try to hear some music in my head. I found that I had the ability to do what he said, and I too was amazed that's how people are.

As an Oregon, high school wrestling-club member, coming home from Mexico City, in the middle of the summer, on a bus with no air conditioning and many mechanical problems that lengthened our journey, Chuck's lesson on listening to music in your head came in very valuable. I tolerated the very uncomfortable bus ride home playing my favorite jazz music in my head.

I would lie, as if asleep, on one of the bench seats of the bus, 18 hours a day, day after day, hearing a few familiar tracks in my head over and over again. The two I remember listening the most to were Lionel Hampton's "Stardust" jam session with the opening solo by Willie Smith, followed by Charlie Shavers on trumpet, later a Slam Stewart solo, and then even later Lionel's three choruses that break into quadruple-time. That cut is one of our family's favorites.

The other was, (ironically, and unintentionally,) "Sleepy Time Down South," featuring Bobby Pratt on trumpet with the Ted Heath big band. I couldn't wait to get home, put on headphones, and hear the brass of that band blaring in my ears. Having had enough of wrestling for the time, it was then that I knew I really loved music and wanted to pursue it.

Your sound and approach to music:
I'd love to give a short answer here, but there's no way. There's too may roles I undertake as a musician to start talking about my "sound." So, even though everyone has a "sound" let's just skip it and talk about "how" and "what" I play since regardless of the sound, it is the expression, and the content of the sound that is important to me. I realize that separates me from a lot of music lovers right there, but there's not right or wrong when it comes to taste in music, and so be it. All tastes in music are to be respected.


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