Who says jazz is dead?
Jazz music, previously thought to be music for Southern grandparents, has made a resurgence in the American music scene, but this time, it sounds a whole lot different. Infused with funk, electronic and soul influences, nu jazz is on the up and up with nowhere else to go but up. Unlike other music genres, nu jazz artists have much more liberty in what style they specialize in while still staying within the limits of the genre.
Although Joe Newman, Dave Brubeck and other traditional jazz musicians rank as some of my favorite artists, there is something about the nu jazz genre that excites me more than original jazz. From Esperanza Spalding and her rock influences to the more synthesized sounds of bands like The Cinematic Orchestra, nu jazz is a music genre like none other.
Take artist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, for example. This past Tuesday night at Paradise Rock Club, Thundercat and his ensemble came and delivered a two-hour set following two opening acts (Saco & Uno and PBDY). On stage were a bass, keyboards, and drum set — all typical instruments for a jazz concert, but hidden in the back was also a violinist. The beauty of nu jazz and Thundercat’s performance is that by simply adding a violinist to the mix, the show transcended previous expectations.
Complimenting Thundercat’s heavy bass performance, the violin brought a classical nature to the set. Not once did any one song fall short of a 4-minute performance as Thundercat and his bandmates began riffing, a staple quality of traditional jazz performances where the band just begins to improvise and extend the length of song with an indefinite end. Throughout the two hour set, the nu jazz quartet played numbers like “Jethro,” “Them Changes” and my absolute favorite, “A Fan’s Mail (Tron Song Suite II),” full of funky beats and heavy basslines. After nearly two hours of performing, Thundercat and his ensemble hardly broke a sweat. They left the audience, especially me, in awe.
Nu jazz is meant to touch the soul while also making you want to dance the night away, and that is exactly what Thundercat did at the concert this Tuesday. Traditional jazz music is meant to excite and inspire, and nu jazz does all that and more by relating to modern day sounds as well. If you haven’t, check out Thundercat and other nu jazz artists: you won’t be disappointed.