BadBadNotGood are anything but your ordinary jazz trio. Keyboardist Matthew Tavares, drummer / sampler Alexander Sowinski and bassist Chester Hansen all linked up in college over their mutual love for hip hop, and though their initial suite of Odd Future covers failed to wow a panel of their instructors at Toronto's Humber College, it attracted the attention of Tyler, The Creator:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_Bdflm7YHo I Love Jazz, This Is Fucking Sick! Dave Brubrek Trio Swag
— Tyler, The Creator (@fucktyler) April 29, 2011
Two mixtapes jam-packed with hip hop "covers" later, the trio are releasing III, their debut album. This is their first project to contain all original compositions, and thusly, BBNG have a lot riding on III. Fail, and they could continue as a novelty -- "the jazz trio who do hip hop covers" -- succeed, and they could become known for giving jazz a thoroughly modern facelift. Luckily, III does not disappoint.
Opener "Triangle" sums up what you can generally expect from this album in 60 seconds: three changes in rhythm, two in tempo, tight grooves, and post-bop meeting instrumental hip hop headlong. The focus of III seems to be crafting as many slick, inventive grooves as possible, with Hansen and Sowinski's rhythm section working overtime to ensure that there's never a dull moment or identically recreated passage. By the time "Triangle" is over, we've gotten chilled-out, trip hop-inflected parts, an ominous build-up, around a minute of freewheeling keyboard madness, a wide-angle climax and a subdued outro, showing us from the get-go how adept BBNG are at composition.
"Can't Leave the Night" follows, with its slinky darkness seeming to beg to soundtrack the opening of a CSI-style show. Sowinski's blend of live and electronic percussion really shines here, using varied tones to create layered drum grooves that function almost as melodically as the bass and keyboard parts of the song. This effect also rears its head on the Flying Lotus-esque "Since You Asked Kindly," a track that blends contemporary electronica and jazz sounds as deftly as Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" did in 1983, albeit with a more muted, less radio-friendly aim.
The album's only guest is saxophonist (and frequent BBNG collaborator) Leland Whitty, whose dynamic playing graces "Confessions," a song that would particularly appeal to both hip hop heads and old school jazz fans, thanks to its blend of low end throb and gorgeous interwoven melodies. Of the album's nine tracks, "Differently, Still" is the least hip hop-influenced, with upright bass, an orthodox keyboard tone and brush drumming making it almost indistinguishable from capital-J-jazz music. It, along with a few other tracks, makes me wish that BBNG took things a bit further towards an all-out marriage of hip hop and jazz on III, but with all three members under the age of 23, the group still has plenty of time to work towards a full synthesis of the two genres.
On BBNG and BBNG2, BadbadNotGood proved that they could turn almost any hip hop track (even Gucci Mane's "Lemonade") into a thrilling jazz romp, and III finds them proving themselves as jazz composers. It's one of the most striking and unique jazz albums you'll hear all year, and has the potential to cross over to fans of hip hop as well.
Buy BadbadNotGood's III from the trio's Bandcamp page.