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I'm not an expert when it comes to jazz, and I won't pretend to be either. Having said that, BADBADNOTGOOD managed to catch my attention in 2011 with their contemporary jazz renditions of popular hip-hop tracks - specifically Odd Future - who at the time, were everywhere. The mixtape, BBNG, also featured works from Nas and A Tribe Called Quest.
This trio from Toronto were creating more than just instrumental covers - their work took on a life of its own and by the time they released their second mixtape, BBNG2, Matthew Tavares, Chester Hansen and Alexander Sowinski had moved on to mixing their magic formula with other genres - with their cover of 'Limit To Your Love' being a particular highlight.
Having won over music fans as well as artists alike, the trio have now produced for Wu-Tang, Danny Brown and Earl Sweatshirt to name a few, signing to Innovative Leisure for III - the group's first full length LP of entirely original work. Perhaps straying from that formula could be seen as a risk, particularly for their first label-backed release, but I feel it was one they had to take and a calculated one at that.
The record starts boldly and assertive, with 'Triangle' picking up where they left off; dramatic keys open the door of the album and slap you in the face before the typical BBNG percussion steps in. The track undoubtedly showcases everything the trio are about, it crescendo's in that chaotic-yet beautiful way that only jazz seems to be able to pull off.
'Can't Leave the Night' doesn't ease up on the punches either, with the opening minute or so teasing you with the group's usual sound before some serious dub kicks in. The band have learnt a lot over the past three years it seems and they aren't holding back - they've been given this platform to make their music and they've taken to it.
R&B influences are featured on the record too. 'Confessions' has some great brass work which takes me back days when I used to work behind the sound-desk at a blues club in my early twenties, while 'Differently, Still' wouldn't be out of place at an fancy bar or restaurant with its more classical jazz vibes. 'Eyes Closed' is as smooth as they come - begging for some Frank Ocean vocals. Not even electronica is safe from these guys, although 'Since You Asked Kindly is probably the one track on this album I struggle to really get along with, mainly as it feels a little out of place.
Thankfully their hip-hop roots are noticeable throughout and tracks like 'Kaleidoscope' and the album's epic finale 'CS60' are both strong sections to the record.
Like a clever film or TV show, every time I listen to the album I pick up on something else, something different; a little nuance here or there I'd not picked up on before; something that puts me into a different state of mind. I really look forward to getting my hands on a vinyl copy and putting it on to de-stress at the end of tough day with a nice drink and some dim lighting.
This is a good record but unfortunately there's something missing. Maybe it's because I set my expectations too high? Maybe it's because BBNG2 in particular was a real highlight of 2012 for me musically? Quite possibly the album's greatness will be organic and I haven't quite pieced all the pieces together yet. I look forward to finding out.
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