Review Summary: So some white Canadians walk into a jazz bar…
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Canadian jazz trio BADBADNOTGOOD does not want to be pigeonholed. Starting as a young jazz cover band, reinterpreting hip-hop tracks and Legend Of Zelda tunes, the band has since continued to grow by incorporating their various influences into their own brand of Jazz. Now with the group’s third full-length, III
, the band has put forth an album comprised of 100% original material, and it certainly isn’t your grandparent’s jazz.
As a jumping point, it’s pretty hard to label III
thanks to the house of influences and variety of styles these guys bring to the table, but that is a compliment to the band and certainly one of the album’s strengths. Jazz has been fragmented throughout the years into dozens of subgenres (to the point of absurdity, honestly), but these guys put a new spin on it with electronic elements, instrumental hip-hop influences and shades of post-rock mixed in to a strong jazz trio foundation. If you told me that some of these tracks were from a Herbie Hancock album, I’d believe you; if you told me that some of these tracks were by Mogwai, it would be hard to disagree. Those looking for traditional jazz might be turned off, but those who like their jazz with a twist will be pleasantly surprised.
In terms of styles and structures, III
has much to offer. The album’s opening tracks “Triangle” and “Confessions” are the most stable, on-the-tracks, anchored numbers of the whole runtime, with roaming bass lines and piano solos on “Triangle” and a lazy drawling saxophone on “Confessions”. In contrast to these more traditional jazz trio romps is “Can’t Leave The Night”, which shows the band’s exorbitant, experimental style: a lush Rhodes piano line that eventually gives way to noisy cymbals and numerous sub-bass rattles, showing off the band’s hip-hop tendencies. Certainly two different kinds of sounds to start III
, but the enthusiasm and creativity is firmly on the sleeve of these three musicians.
From there, III
gets more loose and free-flowing. “Kaleidoscope” features a catchy Rhodes-driven line before hushing into bass solos and saxophone accompaniment, and successfully creates a silky, murky setting in contrast with the bright piano instrumentation. “Eyes Closed” is much of the same, but takes a post-rock philosophy of starting slow and erupting towards the finish, complete with more bass solos inside of a loose structure that ends up being enthralling and organic. Lastly, slow jams “Hedron” and “CS60” are laid-back, easy-going, and are terrific in creating a shadowy, almost somber setting with its hushed instrumentals and unorthodox progressions. The spirit of Jazz, focusing on originality, textures and tone, is certainly alive within most of the album.
But while III
has a lot of positives, there are some spots where the mix of styles are not as successful. “Differently, Still” is probably the most traditional jazz you’ll find on the album, and I’m not sure if it’s because the rest of the album has spoiled me, but it just doesn’t seem to have enough substance to keep it interesting. Also, “Since You Asked Kindly” is the opposite end of the spectrum that shows BBNG swinging for the fences with mixed results: a slow build to a synthy lowbrass type of sound that, again, doesn’t really have the texture quality or the memorable hooks to warrant multiple listens.
Post-bop? Cool jazz? “Hipster” jazz? I’m not sure, really. But what BBNG has created with III
is certainly a one-of-a-kind accomplishment, and is undeniably a fresh take on a genre that has multiple interpretations in the past century. Featuring a myriad of interests, talented instrumentals, a grimy tone and a strong “who gives a ****” mentality flowing underneath it all, III
is a rousing success, and is hopefully just one of the many breaths of fresh air to come from this young talented trio.