If you’re a bit of a shred head but also crave that groove hit, there really is not a lot of getting past this modern day marvel. Thundercat. His solo works, the most recent of which entitled, ‘The Boyond/ Where the Giants Roam’, have earned him a secure place among modern day jazz giants.
Or perhaps you know him from the myriad of features with many of the jazz/soul/hip-hop/funk elite such as his buddy and producer extraordinaire FlyLo (Flying Lotus), hip-hop’s highest flyer of 2015 Kendrick Lamar, or perhaps the incomparable goddess of neo-soul herself, Miss Erykah Badu.
Thundercat (Stephen Bruner) has been sipping from a pretty musical milk bowl with his father, a session’s player having sat in for The Temptations and Diana Ross. His brothers, the older, Ronald Jnr Bruner, a seasoned drummer like their father who most recently was part of one of 2015’s most acclaimed jazz releases, Kamasi Washington’s aptly named, ‘The Epic’. Also, their younger brother Jameel Bruner who plays in Syd the Kid of Odd Future’s dreamy neo jazz group ‘The Internet’ who I was actually fortunate enough to catch at the corner on Tuesday. Whilst I am usually impartial to the shirtless performer, I must admit, I enjoyed watching this guy doing some unspeakable sexy things to a Rhodes. Stellar rig. Jameel, they keys to my heart are on that Rhodes. Damn well played.
Anywho, Max Watt’s Melbourne also played host to support Silent Jay, whom whilst I have often seen just casually being a deck fiend at Boney or some other impossibly suave inner city dive, the seven piece he had put together put on a beautifully diverse set with some of Melbourne’s finest. Allow me to explain, S I L E N T J A Y is more commonly recognised as one third of the harmonic trifecta in Wondercore’s wondrous wonderment, Hiatus Kaiyote. Joining him on stage was fellow Hiatus Kaiyote comrade, dazzling Jace XL who celebrated his 25th birthday by making diamonds rain out of his mouth. The two of them have produced some lush tracks together including Rock-A-Bye-Baby and Vibrate, which they performed at the gig. Every member of this outfit was truly outstanding, Leigh Fisher, one of Melbourne’s most brutal drum overlords, another in the long list of child prodigies was Kumar Shome on guitar, Jimmy ‘Trombowman’ Bowman who hadn’t even rehearsed with the band before the gig. Ridiculous. There was also Luke Saunders hidden somewhere beneath 6 keyboards and session’s bassist for Andy Bull and Megan Washington, Luke Hodgson. With moments of swelling dreamy soul to some monstrous funk and always keeping it jazzy, Jay’s soundcloud is definitely worth a sniff.
When Thundercat took the stage we once used to call the Hi-Fi’s having just got off the plane. Not that you would have known that from the energy in that room. He was wearing an outfit that I could describe only as 90’s cosmic Mongolian Hun, reminiscent of the music video for ‘Them Changes’. Only wolves can run alongside other wolves and my, what a pack. Standing by Bruner in his musical olympus were Justin Brown on drums and Dennis Hamm on keys. Justin Brown has played with Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition winner, trumpet extraordinaire Ambrose Akinmusire (not to mention he came second in the prestigious drum competition himself in 2012) and Dennis Hamm is a pianist, composer and producer having performed with the likes of Flying Lotus, Bilal and Chris Cornell. I do love a good Jazz face and Thundercat performs as if each note summons a tiny little Pomeranian waiting to lick his face. Thundercat was rocking a gorgeous hollow bodied six sting bass, I admit, the brand escapes me. Its insane enough how much extra weight a six string bass can impose. One personal highlight of many included ’Lotus and the Jondy’, released in 2013 of the album ‘Apocalypse’, and it is a story of himself, Flying Lotus and their friend and similarly gifted musician Austin Peralta who devastatingly lost his life at 22. Whether you knew the story or not, a hush fell over everything. The influence of 70’s bass evolutionist Stanley Clarke breathed and continued to evolve through out the set. The man stood unshakable as he unleashed a contrived wildfire of notes to his audience, also using multi effects units transporting the audience to different lands of Jazz, Funk, Electronica semantic to his own creativity.
Thundercats is one of the young musical innovators of out time. Endlessly spanning creativity, emotion and commitment. Here as a part of one of Australia’s favourite festivals St Jerome’s Laneway, Stephen Bruner is an artist worth far more than his salt. Listen to him, see him live, he is spectacular.
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