Hipster jazz at its finest, BADBADNOTGOOD’s second album copies the pattern of their first: carefully picking a selection of very trendy songs and re-working them into improvised jazz tracks, along with a light smattering of their own material. This formula is perhaps the main reason for the trio’s popularity. After releasing a YouTube video or two of improvised re-works of Tyler, The Creator tracks, followed by actually performing and jamming with Tyler himself, it was inevitable that minor fame and major hype was to follow, with at least some of it deserved; these guys play pretty well.
For those not familiar, BADBADNOTGOOD is pianist Matt Tavares, bassist Chester Stone Hansen, and drummer Alex Sowinski. The latter you might see performing in a pig mask if you watch any of the numerous videos they post up on YouTube. The trio met at Humber College in Toronto, Canada and bonded over their mutual musical interests before playing together as a group. Whilst their first album covered predominantly hip hop and beat tracks (J Dilla, Odd Future & Flying Lotus to name a few featured), this album has more variety: James Blake’s “CMYK” and “Limit to Your Love”, Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”, a My Bloody Valentine cover and EARL’s self-titled track are hidden amongst what sounds in places like a fairly traditional jazz album, only to be given away by the rather rigid way they start most of their covers. In CMYK they use the same diamond-pointed synth at the start, but replace the Kelis sample with bass chords, which works surprisingly well. It must be said though that this forced-tidiness to the start of most of their covers is one of the worst things about the album, taking away from the fact that BBNG are at their best when they let the tracks go a bit more. This is something which normally does happen once you wait a few minutes in to any given song.
What does impress is the situations under which they recorded the album. Not only did they record it within one ten hour session, but as they loudly confess on their bandcamp, “NO ONE INVOLVED IN THIS ALBUM IS OVER 21 AND WE’RE SO PROUD!” If it wasn’t for the tracks selected you definitely wouldn’t guess it; the musicianship is great and in the end that’s what turns what could be a cheap jazzy cover album into an out-and-out jazz album that shapes great songs into something completely different and equally amazing. “Earl”, is brought to life with guest saxophonist Leland Whitty and Alex’s drumming really tearing the dark riffs apart, whilst “Bastard/ Lemonade” – a track that combines songs by Tyler, the Creator and Gucci Mane – has been excellently matured from previously heard versions the trio have put out before.
Whether this album is really high up on the jazz standard is something that most of the alt blog reviewers will struggle to tell. What is definite, however, is that the quality is such to make critics and tumblrs alike eager for more from a band that seem to only get better.By Rory Foster