- Sunday, December 23, 2018, 8 p.m.
1337 India Street,
$32 - $34
Stephen Bruner, from Watts, California, grew up in a musical home. Both his father and his brother are heavy hitters who earned their reputations performing as sidemen with frontline jazz artists. But Bruner’s childhood is not offered up in explanation of his emergence as a prodigy on the electric bass. He did that on his own time and within his own reach. His music bears little resemblance to other electric bassists, and his musical path swings away from his family’s.
Maybe that’s the reason behind Stephen Bruner’s curious alter ego. On stage and on record, he calls himself Thundercat. It’s a name that sounds more like a cartoon super hero than it does a bass phenomenon. The 34-year-old Thundercat is also a singer, songwriter, producer, and a session musician. As a wage earner, his scope is vast, having backed R&B artists such as Erykah Badu and the rapper Snoop Dogg. Thundercat was even a member of Suicidal Tendencies, a thrash punk band. But Bruner has developed bass enough skills to be included on the short list of bassists who not only work the instrument as a rhythm tool, playing the roots of chords and governing the culture of a song, but also simultaneously elevate bass to a solo chair instrument. Think Victor Wooten or Stanley Clark or Billy Sheehan, Les Claypool, Tal Wilkenfeld.
Thundercat - Live Performance in Echoplex
Thundercat wrestles sounds from his instrument that aren’t normally associated with it, curious blips and scratches along the order of a Tibetan coffee shop trio or a West African singalong. He fits them into a deep melodic music that identifies with a near-extinct American art form called Acid Jazz. Acid was the child of fusion and smooth jazz. Here, it promises hypnotic phrases, intense instrumentals, and Bruner’s own sweet-as-a-lozenge voice layered over the top. For the listener, that means an inventive, audience-friendly modern spin on straight-ahead jazz music.