Review: BadBadNotGood – IV

Canadian group BadBadNotGood have established themselves as one of the leading voices in contemporary instrumental jazz; their hip-hop influenced compositions have won them acclaim around the world, as well as gaining notoriety through collaborations with Ghostface Killah, Tyler, the Creator and many more. Expanding from a trio to a quartet with the addition of Leland Whitty as a permanent member on saxophone, they release their fourth studio album, appropriately titled IV, through Los Angeles based label Innovative Leisure. The LP features guest appearances from a number of artists including Mick Jenkins, Samuel T Herring and Kaytranda.

The subtle, shimmery tone of Speaking Gently’s first minute or so is smoothly executed, and when the groove kicks in the skill level that BadBadNotGood operate at is made clear with a textured, classy and soulful sound that switches up a number of times throughout the track. Alexander Sowinski’s choppy drums are hugely entertaining, and as Leland Witty delivers an authentic and experimental saxophone solo; the view that jazz is increasingly an old man’s game seems less and less truthful with every minute that goes by on this album. The soulful aesthetic is continued on Time Moves Slow which features guest vocals from Samuel T Herring, the front man of Future Islands. BadBadNotGood sound more refined, confident and professional than they ever have done before, yet they don’t lose any of the endearingly scruffy character displayed on their past releases.

“The view that jazz is increasingly an old man’s game seems less and less truthful with every minute that goes by on this album”

The crunchy guitar and bass of Confessions Pt. II are sure to keep your head-a-nodding, and the screeching sax solo’s are inventive and charismatic. The diversity of the group’s sound is stunning, and each genre they tackle is executed masterfully. They sound so natural, so collected and so sophisticated, and having matured their output over the past few years, this is a wonderful conclusion to that progression.

In Your Eyes showcases a tasteful and mature musical outlook, with it’s smooth strings, groovy bass line and vocals from Charlotte Day Wilson delivered with an intoxicating purity. The virtuosic and melodic piano lines on the LP’s closing track Cashmere are wonderful, and the final song is an authentic, showy jazz number which rounds off IV perfectly; throughout the album BadBadNotGood have experimented with a number of different styles and sub-genres, and their prowess doesn’t suffer at all by closing the album with a more traditional direction.

Polished, concise and wonderfully entertaining, IV is the best showcase of their diverse and vast skill-set. BadBadNotGood blend sublime instrumental pieces with brilliantly chosen collaborators to create a release full of twists and turns, whilst retaining the Canadian group’s signature sound; the choppy drums and funky, melodic bass lines are always energetic, and Whitty’s saxophone solos are gloriously dexterous. Pushing the tried-and-tested formulas, whilst still having a respect and appreciation for the traditional styles that have come before them, BadBadNotGood deliver a stunning album with IV.

Words: Sam Bennett

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