JAZZ HASN’T always had the smoothest of rides in the last year, but with acts like BadBadNotGood and Kamasi Washington now on the scene, it seems as if the genre has stepped back into the ‘cool limelight’. The former of these two are a Canadian Quartet (formerly Trio) whose last three albums, along with a collaboration with Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah, have shaken up the genre. Their covers of popular Hip-Hop and Rock songs have proved popular in the past, their latest effort, IV, shows them dealing only in original compositions, with a smattering of guest appearances.
BadBadNotGood have always been a band to shy away from traditional jazz values, even using the outro of their debut record to lambast John Coltrane’s seminal Giant Steps. However, IV see’s the band remembrance some of these features, notably on some of their vocal based tracks. One of the highlights comes in ‘Time Goes Slow’ featuring Samuel Herring of Future Islands. Yes, that is the guy from Future Islands crooning there. It’s a sultry slow burner that has a grainy quality that really echoes something you might find in a smoky bar back in the fifties. ‘In Your Eyes’, featuring Charlotte Day Wilson, is another number that oozes nostalgia and quality.
But some of the more instrumental numbers have a classic feel to them too. Closer ‘Cashmere’ plays it relatively safe, but still gives us something good, through bass harmonics and some lush piano work. The title track also features some really nice instrumentation, most notably the isolated saxophone solo from Leland Whitty really is something beautiful.
But there are also points where old BadBadNotGood returns, and on welcome form. Opener ‘And That, Too’ is both a great introduction for Whitty as a new member of the band, but also features some quirky keys that echo some of the band’s older material. These carry through onto ‘Speaking Gently’ a song whose synths are so wobbly they often sound out of tune. This can somewhat distract from the song, which is a shame, because on the whole it’s a decent number. Meanwhile ‘Hyssop Of Love’ see’s the band collaborating with rapper Mick Jenkins, who puts some sweet bars over the band’s techo-jazz beat.
But perhaps the crowning glory of this record is ‘Confessions Pt. II’, which feature saxophonist Colin Stetson. It’s a collaboration the band milk, layering the saxophones that sounds majestic at one moment and apocalyptic the next. The keys switch from fluttering piano to quirky organ, while the drum produce some pulsating and catchy beats, with the bass leading into a stunning key change near the end of the song. It’s absolutely perfect.
While IV may drag occasionally, it’s still a great addition to the BadBadNotGood discography, and an exceedingly enjoyable record. It also see’s the band try out some new styles, with the prominence of the saxophone bringing the band into a new area of musical exploration. Instrumentally lush and pleasing to the ears, this record is a must have for jazz fans.
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