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Thundercat: It Is What It Is (Brainfeeder)

A review of the bassist's album that continues his loving updates of mid- and late-’70s jazz and funk

Thundercat, It Is What It Is
The cover of It Is What It Is by Thundercat

The title of the new Thundercat recording is less a paean to contemporary proverbs than a bold statement of personal equilibrium. His previous recordings wrestled with the emotional whipsaws of friends’ deaths and the trials and tribulations of artistic success; his explorations of these matters are perhaps more consistent with his earliest work as a member of Suicidal Tendencies than his playing with Kendrick Lamar or members of the Brainfeeder family. There is a title track here (and it features guitarist Pedro Martins), but the titular expression is repeated often throughout the recording as if it were a mantra. On the first single, “Black Qualls,” which features Childish Gambino, Steve Arrington from the classic funk band Slave, and Steve Lacy (no, not the jazz legend but the guy from the band The Internet), the leader sings, “I’m just trying to live my life/Doing my best and that’s alright/Yes, I’m comfortable and that’s what’s tight.”

The music continues Thundercat’s loving updates of mid- and late-’70s jazz and funk. There are loud echoes of School Days-era Stanley Clarke and Black Market-era Jaco Pastorius, as well as the bell-bottomed grooves of the Brothers Johnson and Shuggie Otis. Much like Clarke or Pastorius, Thundercat’s bass rumbles beneath most of these 15 tunes more to deepen rather than disrupt the sound. Twelve of the tracks check in at less than three minutes and 15 seconds, hinting that they’re templates for substantial expansion and reinvention on stage: another tribute to his favored era.

Preview, buy or download It Is What It Is on Amazon!