Review Summary: Canadian hip-hop/jazz band BADBADNOTGOOD release their fourth album IV with the help of official new fourth member Leland Whitty and multiple vocal features to create their most ambitious album yet, moving further into experimental jazz.
Canadian hip-hop/jazz band BADBADNOTGOOD release their fourth album IV
with the help of official new fourth member Leland Whitty and multiple vocal features to create their most ambitious album yet, moving further into experimental jazz and away from their hip-hop roots. Leland Whitty, who has had guest appearances on previous BBNG records, has a much more prominent role on this album in leading the melody with multiple instruments, including saxophones, flute, guitars, clarinets, and vibraphone. His presence brings a huge jazz influence that shows maturation in BBNG’s sound after the success of their previous album and first official LP III
released in 2014.
BADBADNOTGOOD’s music has captured a lot of attention in the jazz and hip-hop communities in the past few years, and as such the band had collaborated with many other artists before coming back into the studio to record IV
. The most major release of their collaborative efforts was 2015’s Sour Soul
, recorded with rapper Ghostface Killah. BBNG learned how to back many different kinds of frontmen, from rappers to soulful singers and they bring this experience to IV
. The result is a spectacular display of musicianship with a large variety of tracks with great instrumentals as well as backing tracks for some outstanding vocal performances.
Sam Herring of Future Islands sings a melancholy and soulful tune about a breakup on “Time Moves Slow” over a smooth lounge jazz background provided by the band, and rapper Mick Jenkins lays down rhymes over the spacey instrumental on “Hyssop of Love.” Electronic artist Kaytranada also provides work on the CS60 that BBNG use so well on the funky and quirky “Lavender.” But the standout vocal performance on IV
comes from relative unknown and fellow Torontonian Charlotte Day Wilson, who delivers a classic sounding R&B song on “In Your Eyes.” Day Wilson’s soulful voice is a perfect addition to the jazzy instrumental that switches between the feel of a small band in a smoky basement bar to a full orchestra with backup singers during the chorus. “In Your Eyes” is perhaps the best song BBNG have ever recorded; it blends the band’s unique approach to jazz with an excellent singer whose voice fits the music perfectly. Hopefully the band brings back Day Wilson to perform on subsequent albums.
The purely instrumental songs that BADBADNOTGOOD are known for are quite different from their previous offerings, with more solos and improvisation. This change is mainly due to the increased presence of Leland Whitty, but keyboardist Matthew Tavares, bassist Chester Hansen, and drummer Alex Sowinski all must get their due. On the fast-paced and exciting title track “IV,” the band goes back and forth from chaotic electric jazz led by Whitty’s tenor sax to a smooth slow section with ease reminiscent of early 70’s Miles Davis. Tavares’ keyboards are on full display on “IV,” as he masterfully plays chords with a classic Herbie Hancock-esque sound to back up Whitty’s saxophone. Chester Hansen and Alex Sowinski show their immense instrumental prowess holding down the rhythm section on the song originally entitled “Four Hits,” based off the rhythmic line of four sharp notes played on all instruments interspersed throughout the song. Hansen’s bass creates a dark texture in the space created by the keyboards and saxophone while Sowinski keeps time expertly while throwing in immaculate drum fills.
The downside of the increase in experimentation is that the band seems to lose a little direction at times. The songs “Structure No. 4” and “Cashmere” are fairly pedestrian, with decent instrumentals but not anything too exciting or standout. This experimentation also goes the other way with chaotic instrumentals on songs like “And That, Too” and “Speaking Gently.” The excess of shrieking saxophone may be too much for some listeners who wanted more of the hip-hop infused BBNG sound that they had come to know and love but for fans of electric and free-form jazz like John Coltrane and Miles Davis this will be a breath of fresh air. BADBADNOTGOOD have clearly been listening to more jazz artists like this before recording IV
than the current-day hip-hop that they had been emulating on previous albums.
Overall, BADBADNOTGOOD’s fourth album is a significant step forward for the band into the world of experimental jazz as well as refining their abilities as a superb backup band.IV
showcases the band’s incredible musical talent and ability to create a variety of soundscapes which can be soloed or sung over or sampled for beats. BBNG’s stock will continue to rise as they branch out into new genres and collaborate with more and more artists who see their potential. The addition of Leland Whitty to the band is a clear indication that they are moving towards the jazz end of the spectrum that they had been toying with for a while, and it will be very interesting to see what the future holds for BADBADNOTGOOD.