“blackkk” – thundercat (2017)

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This past weekend, I had a wonderful opportunity to revisit one of my favorite albums.  John Coltrane’s 1965 masterpiece A Love Supreme was the February 2017 selection for the ongoing series Classic Album Sundays.  For those not in the know, Classic Album Sundays is a listening event for audiophiles to congregate, listen to a historically or culturally significant album, and then talk about it.  Venues all over the globe will host a listening party in the spirit of bring people together through music by having everyone experience the same album on the same day.  Ongoing every month for the last few years, Classic Album Sundays has featured a great variety of artists including D’Angelo, Stevie Wonder, Massive Attack, the Beach Boys, Talk Talk, Beastie Boys, Depeche Mode, Nick Drake, Portishead, and several dozen other amazing artists.

In Chicago, Classic Album Sundays has been hosted at the Saturday Audio Exchange in the Lakeview neighborhood.  Saturday Audio Exchange, opened in 1982, specializes in high-end consumer audio equipment including turntables, speakers, sound bars, subwoofers, and all kinds of equipment to offer you the best listening experience possible.  So, naturally, this was the perfect place to host the Chicago chapter of Classic Album Sundays.

I had been to Saturday Audio Exchange several times to look through their records, but this was my first time going for Classic Album Sundays which they had been hosting for the last 11 months.  In January 2017, the album of the month was Astral Weeks by Van Morrison.  I had a friend who went and described the event as incredible.  With speakers as tall as refrigerators, you experience the music in a totally new way that ears accustomed to digital files typically don’t get to enjoy.  Great!  I was sold.  A solid listening experience, cool like-minded people, and a stellar album.

While I haven’t discussed Coltrane in my blog yet and this would seem like the perfect opportunity to do so, I’m not quite ready to discuss a track of his and ultimately cross him off my list.  No, I’ll save him for later.  Instead, I want to talk about the event prior to when the needle dropped on his record.  Before listening to the album, before talking about it, and before the pre-listening historical introduction, the emcee of the event plays specially curated tracks as a musical appetizer preceding the main course.

The emcee started off the evening playing some cuts from Coltrane’s contemporaries, his influences, and people influenced by his work.  This was an opportunity to get warmed as well as mingle with other guests over coffee and cookies.  I was off to the side working at the volunteer table, so I was focused on some tasks.  However, I caught one track that blew my mind and was only released two days prior.

Drunk is the third studio album from multi-instrumentalist soul and jazz fusion artist Thundercat.  This album features 23 tracks as well as guest appearances from classic and innovative artists like Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell, Wiz Khalifa, Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins.  Certainly not a bad guest list for an independent artist.

The track featured was a soulful little number with smooth R&B vocals.  Running under just two minutes, “Blackkk” has garnered repeated listenings from since last night.  The backing track is energetic with a funky little organ riff laying over a soft rhythmic drum beat.  The lyrics sound hopeful and are delivered with a controlled passion.  Thundercat sings about wanting to be taken to the highest mountain and to experience all that life has to offer him.  Thundercat is going on an existential, and perhaps spiritual, interstellar journey and wants you to join him and not be afraid of death.

I had not heard of Thundercat prior, so this was a great treat.  I was already sold on going in to listen to such a complex and dynamic album, but hearing exciting modern music that complements the event’s main focus makes it a far more engaging experience.  Knowing that, it makes me even more excited to attend future Classic Album Sundays.

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