Sunday, September 24, 2017

Concert Review: Thundercat at the Granada















I witnessed something I wasn’t sure I’d ever see again last Wednesday.  About 1,500 people in their twenties waved their arms in the air and joyously danced for two hours at a jazz concert. 

The musical foundation of Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner’s appearance at the Granada on September 20 differed little from the jazz fusion performed by his fellow electric bassists Victor Wooten and Stanley Clarke at shows I’ve attended in the past year.   The packaging, however, was notably different. 

Wearing red gym shorts and a black t-shirt, the Californian told fans that “I've been drunk every day of this tour so far.”  The confession made sense.  Bruner is touring in support of Drunk, a woozy album that includes a guest appearance by Kendrick Lamar, the hip-hop giant who featured Bruner on his game-changing 2015 manifesto To Pimp a Butterfly.

Abetted by violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, keyboardist Dennis Hamm and the ferocious drummer Justin Brown, Bruner recalled the 1970s heyday of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever.  His loopy songs were transformed into extended improvisational jams.  The quartet sounded as if they might strike into a cover of Al Jarreau’s “We’re In This Love Together” during a few pop-oriented moments.

I don’t know how many members of the audience dominated by people born in the 1990s identified the invigorating music as jazz.  I'm not sure that it matters.   The concert was the most heartening jazz event I’ve attended in years.

(Original image by Plastic Sax.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with people having a good time at a show - I'm all for it. I'm also not concerned about "jazz" having mass appeal - that hasn't been the case since the big band era. The more subtle and sophisticated that improvised music becomes, the smaller the audience. It can take years of listening to prepare your mind/ears to be receptive to certain sounds. As a jazz nerd in my mid 50's, I would enjoy a Vijay Iyer concert way more than a Thundercat Bruner show. When I was in my early 20's, probably the opposite would be true.