Acclaimed Toronto-based jazz outfit BADBADNOTGOOD — currently founding members Chester Hansen (bass), and Alexander Sowinski (drums) with Leland Whitty (sax) — have received attention internationally for jazz-based interpretations of hip-hop tracks, which have allowed them to collaborate with Kendrick Lamar, Tyler The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Denzel Curry, Danny Brown, Mick Jenkins, Ghostface Killah and others — and for a sound and compositional approach that draws from hip-hop, electronica, jazz, acid jazz and prog rock.
Founded by Hansen, Sowinski and Matt Taveres, BADBADNOTGOOD can trace some of its origins to its founders’ mutual love of MF Doom and Odd Future: The band wrote and played a composition based on Odd Future’s music for a panel of their jazz performance instructions, who unsurprisingly didn’t believe the composition had much musical value. Instead of listening to their instructions, the Canadian outfit released the composition as “The Odd Future Sessions, Part 1.”
“The Odd Future Sessions, Part 1” eventually caught the attention of Tyler the Creator, who helped the video go viral. Building upon rapidly growing buzz, the members of BADBADNOTGOOD followed up with their full-length debut, 2011’s BBNG, which featured interpretations of A Tribe Called Quest, Waka Flocka Flame and of course, Odd Future. The band also recorded a live jam session with Tyler The Creator in Sowinski’s basement, with videos from the sessions amassing more than a million views each.
Their sophomore album, 2012’s BBNG2 was recorded over a course of a ten-hour studio session. Featuring guest spots from Leland Witty (saxophone) and Luan Phung (electric guitar), the album was a mix of their own original material, as well as renditions of songs by Kanye West, My Bloody Valentine, James Blake, Earl Sweatshirt and Feist. That year, the band was the official Coachella Festival house band, backing Frank Ocean and Odd Future over the course of its two weekends.
Their third album, 2013’s III featured “Hedron,” which was featured on the compilation Late Night Tales: Bonobo. That year, they also assisted with the composition and production of The Man with the Iron Fists soundtrack.
The Canadian outfit’s fourth album, 2015’s Sour Soul saw them collaborate on Ghostface Killah on an effort that has been described as a hip-hop album that nodded heavily at jazz. They ended the year with covers of a handful of holiday standards, including “Christmas Time Is Here” with Choir! Choir! Choir!
Leland Whitty joined the band as a full-time member in early 2016, and the band quickly went to work producing “Hoarse” off Earl Sweatshirt’s full-length debut Doris and “GUV’NOR,” a remix, which appeared on JJ DOOM’s Keys to the Kuffs (Butter Edition). Capping off a busy year, they released their fifth album, the somewhat ironically titled IV, which featured Future Islands’ Sam Herring, Colin Stetson, Kaytranada, Mick Jenkins and JOVM mainstay Charlotte Day Wilson. The album was released to critical acclaim and was named BBC Radio 6’s #1 album of the year.
BADBADNOTGOOD’s Talk Memory was released late last year through XL Recordings. Composed in conjunction with legendary Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai, the album features guest spots from Karriem Riggins, Laraaji, Terrace Martin, and a list of others. More so than on their previously released material, Talk Memory sees the acclaim act capturing the focus, energy and improvisation at the heart of their live show on wax.
For the acclaimed Canadian band, a song is a living, breathing entity that naturally changes and evolves as it’s played in different settings. The album’s material plays with that thinking. After years of relentless touring, the band took a pause and looked back at their collective history and experiences before they started out on Talk Memory‘s creative process. At the heart of their new creative approach is a sense of reflection and renewed communication. That, interestingly enough, led to the album’s title.
While much of their earliest released material often took place quickly, the members of BADBADNOTGOOD took on a more deliberate, intentional approach: The album was written over a two year period, with the Toronto-based act expanding upon the album’s material in the studio, rather than on the road.
Last year, I wrote about album single “Beside April,” an expansive and breathtakingly gorgeous composition with a mind-bending and expressive guitar solo in a song that’s one-part jazz fusion, one part Boogarins-like psych rock with a widescreen, cinematic film score. Previously, only available on physical copies of Talk Memory, album single “Open Channels” was recently made available on streaming services with an accompanying visual directed by Sylvain Chaussée.
“Open Channels” is a meditative and expansive, Giant Steps meets Live at the Village Vanguard era Coltrane composition centered around twinkling Rhodes, Whitty’s expressive and mournful sax lines, Sowinski’s delicate drumming. Play this one, close your eyes and reflect on beauty in an ugly and mad world.
As for the video, the mostly black and white visual that begins with the band carrying their instruments through a snow-covered forest before switching to the band performing the song in a bare studio and some trippy footage of the individual members standing in front of psychedelic projections.