Something BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG) fans will say about this group is that their approach to the fusion of jazz with other genres is undeniably fresh and unique. Artists like Robert Glasper, Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, The Internet, and (arguably) BBNG have helped usher us into an era where jazz music is becoming more relevant to the younger generation again. Their success is proof that jazz is continually progressing and evolving as we are! So, of course when I heard this album the other day I knew it was worthy of a byrdcall.
IV, aptly named, is the fourth studio album released by BBNG with the exception of their 2015 collaboration with Ghostface Killah entitled Sour Soul. Since the group’s formation in 2010, Matthew Tavares (keys), Chester Hansen (bass), Alexander Sowinski (drums) and– newest member– Leland Whitty (primarily saxophone) have written for and remixed songs by many up and coming names in hip hop including Tyler the Creator, Mac Miller, and Earl Sweatshirt. This time, with the help of a few special guests from diverse musical circles, BBNG has expanded their sound and produced an impressive album of all original music.
The record begins with “And That, Too”, an enticing and hypnotizing tune which– as you’ll hear– foreshadows the abundance of ideas and little details that shine throughout the album. Although the different layers of effects and synths create an overall electronica sound, the repetitive rhythmic and melodic structure of the song itself could be interpreted as a nod to the jazz language where repetition of motifs is a commonly used tool. BBNG was probably in the studio thinking “let’s add this…yeah, that… oh, and that, too.”
Speaking of additions Future Island’s frontman and dancing machine, Samuel T. Herring, is expertly cast as the star of “Time Moves Slowly”. Herring’s croaking vocals matched with Sowinski’s precise groove on drums is reminiscent of a classic R&B love song full of that Love Jones heartache. Colin Stetson, a virtuosic saxophonist who has collaborated with the likes of indie groups Bon Iver and Arcade Fire, plays alongside Whitty on “Confessions Pt. II” (whose precursor can be found on BBNG’s third album, iii). Stetson delivers long tones with a rich blowtorch timbre that intensifies the sense of urgency the 5/4 meter creates. The dreamy soul ballad “In Your Eyes” features the silken alto voice of fellow young Canadian Charlotte Day Wilson and Whitty’s talents on violin, flute, and guitar . This particular instrumentation combined with some well placed background vocals help achieve this “Los Angeles in the 60’s” kind of sound a nostalgic person could get lost in.
What draws people– especially jazz lovers– to BBNG is the fact that they stay updated musically and use their many influences (past and present) to create something signature.