Published Nov 17, 2013It was a future funk fusion family affair this evening, as the monolithic six-string bass of Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner was flanked by younger brother Jameel Bruner on keys and older brother Ronald Bruner Jr. on drums. Their years of collective experience, and the unspoken connection that comes with shared blood, showcased a synergy beyond that of most musical collaborations. Everything was extended, pushing a selection of tight three-minute jams from the first two Thundercat albums beyond the ten-minute mark in the live setting, yet nothing felt like a stretch. They were in their element.
Parked behind a Yamaha Motif keyboard and Rhodes piano, Jameel's enthusiasm saw him bouncing joyfully on his stool for "Tron Song," but he really got to crack his knuckles and jam for "Is It Love?" Ronald laid down back-up vocals that melded almost imperceptibly with Stephen's lead, but he was given his chance to shine on his florescent orange kit in the pounding groove of "Daylight" and especially the sentimental "Lotus and the Jondy," an ode to Brainfeeder boss Flying Lotus and departed pianist Austin Peralta. They were generous with the solos, compelled to constantly pull stank-faces as they pushed each other to reach further into the cosmos, but they never hammed it up for the spotlight.
Obviously, being the guy up front, Stephen did receive much of the focus. He seemed very polite in his selective yet humble banter, while his soaring falsetto, used sparingly to great effect, was so sweet and soulful that it could have been used as a sundae topping, but his bass did most of his talking. With a goofy grin plastered across his face whenever it wasn't contorted into stank, he let loose solo after face-melting solo. One second, he would stab his frets with the ferocity of quantized raindrops, taking his murky bass tone on runs that sounded like an alien language, then lay down chords of mindboggling complexity the next.
Rather than feed off the crowd's loving attention, Stephen seemed more drawn in by his brothers, getting in their faces for some back-and-forth improvisation, and shooting knowing smiles at them when they struck a particularly lucid vein of cerebral free-jazz funk. It's in their blood, their chemistry apparent in their fluid transitions and sharp changes. These guys have big fundamentals.