Badbadnotgood is a modern jazz band that’s been on the scene for a while now. Hailing from Toronto, Canada, the group has a fascinating hybrid of traditional jazz with classic hip-hop sensibilities. They fuse the dexterous musicianship of a classic jazz band with accentuated loops you’ll hear in classic hip-hop songs. In fact, if you take away the solos and rhythmic interplay of their records, rappers can actually flow over their jams - as evidenced through a collaboration album they recorded with Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah entitled “Sour Soul”. Traces of their sound do recall the classic rap era of the 90’s when many of the beats coming from the east coast had this dark and spare quality. While there have been hip hop bands throughout its history such as Stesasonic and The Roots, Badbadnotgood’s emphasis on exploring their jazzier side is what separates them from the rest. In 2014 they recorded their third album in which it was their first to contain all original material. While that album sounded very good, it kind of lacked in sonic variety. Their latest release “IV” is something of a step up as they expand their bag of tricks to include vocalists and arrangements that grabs one’s attention more immediately than its predecessor.
The east coast hip-hop styled approach in their music often has a cinematic feel in its execution. One can listen to “Speaking Gently” with its sinister chord changes and feel like they’re being stalked into their apartment building on a cloudy fall afternoon by an assailant with ill-conceived intentions. “Confessions” is a continuation of the theme in which the rhythmic intensity is turned up a notch with that jumping bassline and a cool sax solo by Colin Stetson, that feel likes a film sequence of the hero coming to the rescue. “Lavender” also has a noir sort of feel, but is given an electronic treatment courtesy of Kaytranada. Listening to many of these tracks, one will think that they’ve found a long lost soundtrack to a classic crime drama film. So the guest artists who appear on the album really help in mixing up the vibe. The Sam Herring featured “Time Moves Slow” has less in common with a Dave Grusin movie score than it does with late 60’s AOR. To retract a statement I had made in regards to rappers not being featured on this album during my interview, “Hyssop of Love” featuring Mick Jenkins can very well sound at home on a Blackmoon or Wu-Tang-oriented album from the mid 90’s with lyrics that recalls Black Thought’s flow from The Roots. “In Your Eyes” featuring Charlotte Day Wilson brings to mind a friendly stroll in the park in which two lovers lock eyes and realize they’re in love, all wrapped up with an exquisite arrangement that feels like a romantic scene from a silver screen love story. The string filtered “Cashmere” sounds like a lost soul instrumental from the early 70’s. The band even takes the nostalgia further with the title track “IV”, an out and out jazz jam session that sounds like an unreleased studio outtake from the heyday of CTI records which is far from a bad thing.
If you fancy classic jazz, classic hip-hop beats and a bridging of the gap between the two styles, then you should feel at home with Badbadnotgood’s “IV”. Since the overall vibe is kind of chilled and low key, it will be an album more appropriate for the fall season when you’re lounging by the fireplace with a cigar and a glass of brandy. You can’t really drop the top on your convertible and roll to the beach with these tracks. But those who are opened for this style will have the pleasure in hearing the finesse and clarity in which these grooves are executed. And the beauty of their style is that it appeals to a young, hipster audience since they can listen to it and not feel like they’re listening to their grandparents’ jazz- no pun intended. “IV” acknowledges the technical aspects of that style, but put its own stamp on it based on the sounds that the band and much of their audience grew up with. While this is hardly groundbreaking, the richness and grace of these tracks deserve a place in your collection among other vintage jazz recordings.
This is a guest review by Patrick Frierson. Patrick is an avid music lover and collector. He’s spent the past five years or so collecting nothing but the finest in vintage recordings that range from well-known classics to underground gems. Hopefully, you’ll find his reviews to be inspiring enough to make you want to groove out to some of the coolest albums ever recorded. As a rule, he doesn’t write negative reviews, so if he takes the time and effort to review a recording, he genuinely loves it. His passion ensures that he will place a great deal of care and detail into analyzing albums and sharing the info with the readers of The Penman Post. He hopes you all enjoy it as much as he enjoyed sharing his musical experience with you.