Toronto jazz act BADBADNOTGOOD have abandoned the spooky melodies and pig masks and decided to put on their bow ties and get classy.
The result is one of their brightest and cleanest records to date, loaded with punchy drums, slinky basslines, twinkly mellotrons and a ton of hot and steamy sax (so hot and steamy you’ll be stripping down to your bath towels like the boys above). Resident sax player Leland Whitty for one has turned into a full time member and sax guru Colin Stetson even gets invited to lay down some noodling on one of the tracks ‘Confessions pt II’. Sax addicts like myself will be in their element.
Sure there are some potholes along the way – Sam Herring’s shaky soul singer impression on ‘Time Moves Slow’ being one of them – but the bulk of the album is carried out with elegance and finesse. ‘Speaking Gently’ has all the sparkle of a chandelier, revolving around a gleaming keyboard riff that builds into a triumphant climax. ‘Chompy’s Paradise’ meanwhile features some woozy detuned chords and a matching drunken sax, playing out like the sad breakup scene to some sixties romance movie (who is Chompy anyhow and why is it his paradise?).
All in all, the album is calm and sophisticated lounge bar music of the highest calibre. The only issue is that BADBADNOTGOOD’s appeal has long relied on them not being a lounge bar jazz act but instead a dark and dusty gutter jazz group. In cleaning up their production and brightening up their melodies, they’ve eliminated a lot of what made them edgy and unique to begin with, on a lot of tracks blending in with the traditional sound of every other Miles-Davis-tribute-act.
Of course, that isn’t to say this album is entirely boring and old-fashioned. A few urban guests such as electronic producer Kaytranada and rapper Mick Jenkins ensure the album still feels trendy and modern. Jazzheads may certainly appreciate the noodling more (it’s not my cup of tea), but the band refrain from going full bebop, not getting carried away with studious complexity. My only hope is that they won’t get any more prim or cheery in the future. And as gorgeous as the guys look posed topless in towels, pig masks are undeniably much cooler.