This is an album for longtime jazz listeners who appreciate the classics but also love the forward leaps that came after.
So good from a band twice bad
By Matthew Fraser, Editor in Chief
I have been a fan of BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG) since at least 2016. I don’t remember the first song that I heard from them, but I do remember being absolutely floored both times that I heard them play “Confessions Pt. II” live. The combination of technical brilliance, jarring shifts in intensity and smooth mastery is one thing to understand through your stereo, but another to witness in real life. Since then, I have been a serious fan, jealously waiting for their next release. On October 8, the Canadian Jazz band granted my wishes and released their fifth album Talk Memory.
In a sense, this album is a departure from their third and fourth albums as they’ve reigned in a touch of the intensity and replaced it with a smoother, more traditionally jazz style. It’s not that the album is bereft of power—far from it—it’s that the power on display is less room-filling and more mind penetrating. The captivating intensity of “Triangle” and “Eyes Closed” have receded into an effort that straddles the line between introspective and progressive. This is an album for longtime jazz listeners who appreciate the classics but also love the forward leaps that came after.
The album’s opener “Signal From the Noise” harkens back to the Carlos Santana era of fusion jazz with its shifting melodies and high energy. The song carries forwards in a loose yet mature and technical manner, buoyed by the woodwinds layered throughout its sonic atmosphere. “Unfolding (Momentum 73)” continues to evoke the sound and feel of 1970’s fusion jazz but adds more of the future-facing space-age sound of the era. The song submerges elements from the piano and saxophone into the background to be uncovered and picked out by keen and attentive listeners.
“City of Mirrors” begins as a classy, jazzy, effortless song calmly directed by Brazils legendary Arthur Verocai. Over the first minute, violins serenade listeners before the song gently transitions into an improvised jazz session. An essence of Thelonious Monk is present in the discordant midpoint before the song returns to its fusion jazz core, smoothly blending old and new.
“Beside April” follows quickly, displaying both a modern smoothness and the expert arrangement of Verocai. Here, John McLaughlin-esque guitar riffs and styling wrap themselves into the blazingly fast arrangements on display. The technical brilliance of the preceding two albums recedes to be replaced by a more mature sound.
“Love Proceeding” feels almost like a modern reimagining of a 1960’s pop song. Verocai’s hand is once again evidenced in the orchestral arrangements, adding to the sense of a bygone era while also lending depth to the jazz band’s technical sound. When “Timid Intimidating” begins, the band’s collaborations and friendship with artist Thundercat are on display. However, the band shifts smoothly into its fusion jazz form and once again resurrects the sound of McLaughlin.
“Beside April (reprise)” is chillingly cinematic as the piano leads this delicate but strange reprise of the earlier song. In no way is this a lesser version, rather, it is a stripped-down and retooled imagining that comes at listeners in a cooler, nearly eerie fashion. The final song on the album, “Talk Meaning” is a percussion-driven explosion that may be the most ‘modern sounding’ song on the album. Here, various sonic elements, sounds and instruments wander in and out of the soundstage while the polyrhythms of each instrument fuse and transform. The saxophone, drums and piano work with and against each other at points to create and maintain a driving rhythm. The song and the album end and as the string section reemerges then disappear leaving a lone harp to carry listeners away.
This fifth album shows the uncanny mastery of technique and jazz ideas that have become the trademark of BBNG. The band chooses to blur the lines between eras at will while maintaining the coherency that most musicians long aspire to maintain. The band is perfectly in control of themselves and their audience once again. I now hungrily await their next live performance. Pro tip: The vinyl edition contains a bonus song.
Stand out tracks:
City Of Mirrors