BADBADNOTGOOD-IV_First Impressions

IV cover art

On the fourth edition to their catalog, Toronto-based jazz-fusers badbadnotgood once again manage to capture the vigor of improvisation’s past with modern production serving as a gateway to success in the more concise modern-day musical landscape.  From the initial funk induced noodling on “And That, Too” the band encompasses a shimmering retro sound aesthetic not unlike that of Tame Impala, but with more liberties taken in rhythmic conception as the band thrives on their collective playing style.  Although jazz may serve as the back-bone of the ensemble’s members, they have certainly advanced quite a bit aesthetically, pushing them into more contemporary excellence than some of the jazz communities finest instrumentalists.

One of the important aspects of the band’s sounds is the introverted playing style of each of the members.  Rather than reaching over the other sounds in the room with a fiery solo, each player remains subdued within the overall sound.  This combined with the blending in production makes for an emphasis on overall musicality rather than on individual prowess.  On “And That, Too,” melodies circulate from synthesizers and saxophones with drums taking front-and-center to re-emphasize the groove in key moments of the tune.  On Kaytranada featuring “Lavender,” the heavy beat is gently highlighted by saxophone rambling and aesthetic keyboard playing.

This album in particular thrives on features, which may serve a bit as a fault of the band’s style.  Although they are very versatile, the focus on embodying different musical styles as both a back-up band and a cover band in their past may have made them lose their own personality a bit.  For example, Sam Herring’s personality serves as the main driving force on “Time Moves Slow.”  Aesthetically the song completely dedicates itself to a 50’s throwback soul groove making for the perfect landscape for Herring to operate in.  On the next song, the band succumbs to the heavy, progressive style of Colin Stentson with more complex rhythms and rigid melodies coming into play.  These songs would never have come to light without badbadnotgood, however, they serve more as a solid back up to the musicians they are showcasing than as an independent voice in their own right.

In the later half of the album, the band plays around in a sultry mellow space with the slightest tinge of breathiness seeping from the saxophone alongside the tender bass line and classic rhodes keyboard sound.  “IV” is arguably the most densely composed works on the album with different ages from the career of Joe Henderson making appearances with each melodic transition.  Following this tune, Mick Jenkins maintains the sensual energy  with his psychedelic hook on “Hyssop of Love” before the album fades into oblivion with the last couple tunes.

I though IV was a fun listen first time through.  Sometimes I feel like the band allows for their collaborators to steal the spotlight, but this doesn’t necessarily detract from each individual song it is just hard to say whether or not the group truly stands out on their own in certain portions of the project.  Nonetheless, the album is certainly much further advanced than the more traditionally produced funk projects in the jazz community.



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