I think everyone was a little surprised when The Roots accepted the role of stage band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon back in 2009. For about a decade, The Roots had toed the line between neo-soul and fusion jazz with their live performances and genre-bending albums, largely remaining a niche band that appealed to hipsters and those with a jones for band oriented hip-hop. Their commercial presence was primarily limited to a handful of albums that sold modestly well in the mid to late 90s on into the early 00s and then their seemingly out of left field collaboration with bedroom-soul wunderkind Cody Chesnutt on the amazing single “The Seed (2.0)”.
When the group plays with artists like Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, you can guess at why they took the gig. The Roots are challenged to hone their skills nightly in front of a live audience and on occasion they get to play with some of the best artists working in popular music today. All this and they continue to tour and record in their free time. It would be hard to pass up a gig with so much upside, even if some purists would hate on you for it.
Vernon has been no slouch on the collaboration front either; over the four-plus years since the release of his first album (For Emma, Forever Ago) he’s worked with Kanye West several times, Gayngs and helmed side projects like Volcano Choir, among other entries into his growing catalog of work.
This little gem has Vernon and the band jamming on an extended version of “Perth” from Bon Iver’s 2011 self titled release, which I’ll confess I like more than the actual recorded album version. (Previous reports of any friction between Vernon and ?uestlove appear to have been overstated.) Sit back, relax and let the vocoder take you to strange, groovy places in Wisconsin that you never knew existed.