SHOW REVIEW: Taylor McFerrin & Marcus Gilmore Improvise at Rough Trade New York
Taylor McFerrin is still touring in support of 2014’s Early Riser, an album that came out almost two years ago. However, the itch to play new material was evident last night as he and drummer Marcus Gilmore plays a mostly improvised set that saw special guests joining the duo for some jazzy electro-soul.
The set began with McFerrin addressing the Rough Trade patrons, saying that he and Marcus rarely have a chance to hang out anymore, and that they’d be improvising a lot because of this. When he was met with cheers from the crowd, it set the tone for a one-of-a-kind evening. They launched into “Postpartum,” beginning things the same way that Early Riser begins, but aside from that there were few similarities between the album and the live show.
McFerrin took to beatboxing to begin the second track (and others as the night progressed) melting 90bpm Dilla licks with a little drum ‘n’ bass for good measure. Once Gilmore caught wind of the beat, Taylor put down the microphone and started looping synths, the rhodes, and little samples in his APC40 to create an in-the-moment masterpiece. “This is a good audience. We’re gonna keep free styling,” he said when that was over.
After a bit more jamming, Taylor invited his sister, Madison McFerrin out to the stage to sing the vocals for “Decisions,” the Emily King-featured song from the Brainfeeder-released LP. Madison crushed it, applying her own rich, sultry vocals to the beautiful track. The surprises were far from over though, as Taylor invited César Mariano to the stage. César Mariano is a Brazilian musician who released one of Taylor’s very favorite albums in 1978, titled São Paulo – Brasil. The jam took a bossa nova twist with the four musicians jamming together on stage.
Gilmore and Mariano were featured together on the Early Riser track “Invisible/Visible,” but they actually had never met before last night. In the spirit of meeting IRL, Taylor put them on the spot and let them jam for a few minutes with each other, creating a wonderful blend of César’s bossa nova keys and Marcus’ hip hop flavored chops.
It was after that when Taylor dropped one of the nicest bombs on us of the night: a new album will be coming out this year! He said that he and Marcus have been in the studio together, and that Marcus gave him a bunch of drum material to work with. From there, Taylor played a sampled loop from Marcus’ kit (the same sounds we’d been hearing all night) and did a little bluesy hip hop number on that. Gilmore joined him for a jam as they picked up the tempo and got the crowd moving.
“Florasia,” written for Taylor’s wife who was in the audience, came next and featured vocals sung from Taylor himself. An expanded version of “4am,” the spastic 41-second beat from Early Riser. Perhaps the funnest moment came in the encore, when he prefaced by saying he’s been into Detroit house lately, name-dropping Moodymann as an influence, and then dove into “The Antidote” which melted into a jazz-house banger that left both Taylor and Marcus with huge smiles, and the majority of the crowd busting fully fledged moves as the show came to an end.