Badbadnotgood at The Sugar Club, Dublin, on June 27th 2017
There has been something of a jazz revival in the last few years. Of course, it never really disappeared, turning up coated all over hip-hop-from ATCQ in the ‘90s to Jay Electronica in the aughts. But in recent times, you’ve had Flying Lotus (nephew of John and Alice Coltrane) spawn Brainfeeder which in turn, in conjunction with the revived activity of George Clinton, led to Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus and one of the standout albums of the decade, ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’. None have come so organic however than Kamasi Washington-who plays at the National Concert Hall on Thursday night-and tonight’s guests, Torontonians, Badbadnotgood.
BBNG, as it turns out, initially began as session players for the likes of Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean. And have accommodated for Mick Jenkins and Ghostface Killah in spitting their bars as well as provided production for Danny Brown and Earl Sweatshirt.
But in 2014’s ‘III’ and last year’s ‘IV’ (which supply the tunes for tonight’s show), for the most part, it’s pure unadulterated jazz.
Support duties fall to Irish/American-Egyptian duo, Lesser Pieces. Frontwoman, Diane Badie and LuckyMe-endorsed Mike Slott’s (on keyboards) duality is a refreshing take on the ever-burgeoning avant-pop genre, so much so that it caught the ears of Grammy-winning producer Paul Epworth (famous for honing the talents of the likes of Adele and FKA twigs).
Sadly, Lesser Pieces miss the chance to separate themselves from FKA twigs and a whole host of other lockstep post-dubsteppers currently populating the milieu, falling too flat and failing to bring the energy of (the actually quite brilliant) You & I (No Emergency) to a distracted and passive crowd.
They’re a promising young band however and their hesitancy will be replaced in time by conviction and precision.
The difference in atmosphere as soon as BBNG arrive onstage is astonishing. Armed with a saxophonist/flutist, a drummer, a keyboardist and a guitarist, in a lot of ways BBNG bridge the gap between jazz (their main love), hip-hop, indie and electronica. And all’s acolytes are in attendance, united under one roof.
It’s a testament to their skillsets that the band manage to coalesce them without ever straying from what makes them good; their authenticity and an apparent inability to be in any way pretentious despite channelling so many accesses into one sound.
Largely though, as mentioned, their music fleets and flutters; all dissonant chord progressions and sax solos. But this isn’t to say that these are the only strings to their bow; a conventional jazz framework and a few accesses into other styles of music.
In addition, there is always an underlying melody carrying the songs along. And in this way, they can be said to have more in common with the other genres we’ve mentioned. And therein lies a sense of structure so often lost (for better or worse) in other jazz, perhaps granting them the accessibility that the rest of the genre so prevalently lacks.
Furthermore, BBNG have always deployed an element of the cinematic throughout their oeuvre, particularly on ‘III’ (Kaleidoscope loosely resembles 007 Theme’s rhythm section). And it’s this piece of work-a cornerstone of jazz and perhaps the most recognisable tune of the whole genre-that begins proceedings, sending the audience into delirium. A fun-filled and fitting tribute.
This leads into Speaking Gently, a highlight from ‘IV’. With its infectious Mac Demarcoesque synths and rousing saxophone, this sets the show rolling along nicely. There are occasions when slower moments aren’t deployed on cue. But generally it is a well-put together performance, one which always keeps the listener enthralled and absorbed.
And any mishaps can swiftly be forgiven after the thrilling one-two of And That, Too and its ceremonially charged cartwheel of instrumentation and Lavender which diverts halfway through for by far the highlight of the night, a sublime sax solo, before tumbling back for the conclusion of the song.
A breather was needed. Time for a slower jam. This came in the form of Differemtly, Still, a much more delicate groove. A good song in its own right but a rare dip in interest.
Crowd interaction was kept to a minimum. But the band are no less grateful and exhilarated to be there.
And aside from being the best performer on the night (this was a difficult one, they were all worthy of acclaim), in Alexander Sowinski, their drummer, BBNG have a fantastically energetic and confident frontman. This is all the more remarkable for the fact that he is, a drummer, a member of the band who so often are the ones who, despite making the most noise and keeping the show going, are also the very ones to drift into obscurity.
They depart the stage briefly before returning and closing with CS60 before taking their leave once again.
It’s rare that a jazz concert would so much as evoke interest from the 20s-30s. But on Monday/ Tuesday night Badbadnotgood not only managed to accomplish this but sell out two shows and harvest one of the most resounding responses that The Sugar Club has seen in recent times. Badbadnotgood very good indeed.