Bassist and musical cosmonaut, Thundercat aka Stephen Bruner, joined the Roots this past Tuesday to perform the song (and my personal favorite), “Heartbreaks + Setbacks”. For those of you unfamiliar with Thundercat’s music, I recommend checking out his first album, Golden Age of Apocalypse and his most recent album, Apocalypse, from which “Heartbreaks + Setbacks” comes from.
Speaking personally for a moment, I am a huge fan of Thundercat and his music. I am very surprised to see someone with such a musical diversity (session player for Erykah Badu and bassist for thrash-funk-crossover band, Suicidal Tendencies) make such a wild leap into jazz-fusion-electronic inspired music with such a heavy solo bass slant. The bass player, the musician and the music fan in me are all excited for Thundercat.
Moreover, Thundercat’s music is certainly a different sound but in the best possible way. I’ve always loved the music of big names in jazz and solo bass guitar and consider them to be my – and I’m sure many others’ – earliest tastes at pushing the barrier for what bass guitar can do musically and technically. But Jaco and Stanley Clarke were pushing borders for bass and producing some very wild and very eclectic music in the process, they seem to have wound up producing music that can really only be enjoyed by a small sliver of the music-listening masses: bass players and people who can generally appreciate that kind of intricate and over-the-top technical playing i.e. other musicians. Not much of this music has broken through to mainstream life and been embraced as a classic. Perhaps that’s for the best – who knows.
Thundercat on the other hand is doing something that I’ve wanted to see happen for a very long time. Bruner is taking the technical and virtuoso chops that comes with “music for musicians” and combines it with familiar aspects of music that is more widely accepted and palatable for a wider audience. Sweeping synths, funky feels, big wide atmospheres and soundscapes and even at time musically advant-garde moments ala Flying Lotus are among some of the things that Bruner has combined with quintessentially jazz bass playing in the vein of Hadrien Feraud and Matt Garrison.
Frankly, I’m very much a fan of Thundercat and if you’re a bass player that loves:
– Solo bass albums
– The sounds of Flying Lotus without Flying Lotus (he did produce this album and the last, but this is still very much a Thundercat musical endeavor)
– Music that at times hearkens back to George Duke funkiness and falsetto vocal work