The insurmountable peak of jazz came and went with the likes of Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, leaving a legacy almost no artist since has been able to match. However, BADBADNOTGOOD’s fourth album, IV, might be the closest modern music has come to the experimentation and pioneering spirit of jazz’s heyday.
Three Canadian college students, plus the recent addition of saxophonist Leland Whitty, bonded over their love of hip hop and have since worked together with Ghostface Killah, Earl Sweatshirt and Danny Brown to produce some of today’s most progressive jazz hip hop beats and live instrumentation. With IV, the boys try to break away from their habit of making background music to explore their own independent career by placing jazz first and features second.
IV picks up where its predecessor, III, left off. While Whitty found one guest feature on III, his presence on IV is dominant. Now a member of the band, Whitty plays everything from his signature saxophone to electric and acoustic guitar as well as clarinet and flute, allowing BBNG to expand to a full jazz sound.
The album kicks off with “And That, Too,” a slow song with a catchy hook, and escalates quickly with “Speaking Gently” and “Time Moves Slow,” which display Whitty’s talents with a saxophone and drummer Alexander Sowinski’s ever-changing hi-hats. These chaotic moments of several instruments at full throttle and escalations in each song are easily the band’s peaks, and when all four members of the band are firing at full capacity, it’s near impossible to not revel in their talents.
The rest of the album continues with this consistency, making it an experience to be had by any jazz fan. But instead of sticking to this formula, the group pushes into new territory by exploring four features of their own, each of which bring a different attitude with mixed results.
Of the four, Future Islands vocalist Sam Herring’s performance on “Time Moves Slow” pays off with the highest dividends. On the other hand, Kaytranada’s guest spot on “Lavender” ruins the song, forcing some exciting bass and piano performances from Chester Hansen and Matthew Tavares, respectively, to take the backseat.
In the end, these performances either lead to fantastic highs, or easily forgettable lows, a problem BBNG has suffered from in the past. IV also has the highest production level of any BBNG album, making it much more of a standout than III was.
All things considered, IV is the most challenging listen of the four albums in BADBADNOTGOOD’s discography. For now though, the band’s experiment with guests produces mixed results. Hopefully for their next full-length release, the band will be able to nail down their newfound style and assert themselves as one of the preeminent jazz groups of their time, matching their forefathers in their influence on the genre.
- Album: IV
- Tracks: 11
- Genre: Jazz Fusion/Nu Jazz/Soul Jazz
- Rating: 6.5/10