Wednesday, February 3
Thundercat is a freak! He’s got the jazz-noodling from the 70s/80s down pat; he’s like all of your favourite session stars from the fusion era and (slightly) beyond – and all at once. He’s like the best example of the worst nightmare that is the session guys running away to record their own album.
But Thundercat is even more of a freak because inside his scattershot space-jammin’ jazz slides he hides a beautiful R’n’B voice. He plays the bass as if it is – variously – a guitar, a set of keys or a horn. A song is as likely to pop off with a bit of Bootsy’s old crunch as it is to end with a wry nod to Jaco Pastorious. And all the while you’re hearing this tender croon caught somewhere inside the swirling worlds that Thundercat with his trio (the “bad mutherfuckas up on this stage”) conjures.
Thundercat – aka Stephen Bruner – is a knockout player, truly it’s freak of nature stuff. And I know and love his playing as crucial component on the Kamashi Washington EPIC, and with Flying Lotus and his own solo material too. He’s also knocked up some of Kendrick Lamar’s best stuff (as both writer and player). So he’s got hip-credentials. Big time.
And as the trio made show-off jazz splatter-grabs vaguely danceable (a sold out venue seething, writhing, caught in a constant slow-motion bob’n’sway, dazzled and heat-drenched) it was all incredible to see and hear and feel. But only ever for the seconds that it lasted. It felt viscerally charged for just the moment that it was happening.
And so at the same time it meant nothing.
I write this now – and the show’s largely forgotten. Not a note of it stays with me. And that may be missing the point, sure, and granted – but I’m not so sure. I’ve still got my Weather Report and Alphonse Mouzon and Jean-Luc Ponty and – yes! – Frank Zappa records. I still love them too. Time-to-time at least. I don’t need the post-modern update.
Thundercat is a wizard – not least of all because he seems to genuinely be enjoying himself and making it seem rather effortless as he squirts this leathery-liquid jazz all over the stage.
Just none of it sticks.
It squelches. It smells – if not feels – funky. But it’s just so easily wiped off. And away.
I wanted something cinematic – something I could call art. But this felt like pornhub-does-jazz (pornhub-does-jazz-hard). Job well and truly done, y’all. Sure. But so strange that such a player, on that particular instrument, couldn’t offer anything truly soulful. It was really incredible. At the same time it never – therefore – ever felt quite real.