Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

The BadBadNotGood Life

Between fusion and hip-hop, BBNG creates its own postmodern pop-jazz universe

BBNG (from left: Leland Whitty, Alexander Sowinski, Chester Hanson and Matty Tavares) (photo courtesy of the artist)
BBNG (from left: Leland Whitty, Alexander Sowinski, Chester Hanson and Matty Tavares) (photo courtesy of the artist)
BBNG: "IV"
BBNG: "IV"
Tyler, the Creator (from BBNG viral video in 2011)
Tyler, the Creator (from BBNG viral video in 2011)
BBNG: "Odd Future Sessions Part 1"
BBNG: "Odd Future Sessions Part 1"
BBNG original trio (photo courtesy of the artist)
BBNG original trio (photo courtesy of the artist)

It was nearly 8:30 on a Tuesday night in late September, and the sold-out crowd at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles was restless. With confirmed (Bilal, Sa-Ra Creative Partners) and unbilled (George Clinton, Kamasi Washington, the Gaslamp Killer) acts slated for the stage, the evening was shaping up to be a long but momentous one. British deejay Gilles Peterson had selected the bill and violist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, one of the most in-demand arrangers and composers of the tight-knit L.A. beat scene, was at the helm of a 13-piece jazz orchestra. The Canadian quartet BadBadNotGood—Leland Whitty on saxophones, guitar, violin and vibraphone; keyboardist Matty Tavares, subbed out for the night; Chester Hansen on bass; Alexander Sowinski on drums—was tasked with opening the show.

Whitty, a recent fulltime addition to the band, strode out in his best spring-break wardrobe and began to blow the Norah Jones hit “Don’t Know Why” on his tenor. The group played it slow and straight without solos, a suitable cruise-ship stroll. When the song was over, the crowd clapped politely, a little confused but fairly accepting that these four young men were going to sling some cheese until the main acts were ready. Instead they delivered a beating, unleashing blazing saxophone solos and a road-tested rhythmic ferocity on the 1,600-strong audience. Between tunes, Sowinski, wearing a T-shirt promoting a mythical Cubist basketball team called the Picasso Bulls, offered frenetic banter. By the end of the set, people were hollering at the stage for more. BBNG had blown a few minds and befuddled a few others. The parade of stars could now proceed until the early morning.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.

It was nearly 8:30 on a Tuesday night in late September, and the sold-out crowd at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles was restless. With confirmed (Bilal, Sa-Ra Creative Partners) and unbilled (George Clinton, Kamasi Washington, the Gaslamp Killer) acts slated for the stage, the evening was shaping up to be a long but momentous one. British deejay Gilles Peterson had selected the bill and violist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, one of the most in-demand arrangers and composers of the tight-knit L.A. beat scene, was at the helm of a 13-piece jazz orchestra. The Canadian quartet BadBadNotGood—Leland Whitty on saxophones, guitar, violin and vibraphone; keyboardist Matty Tavares, subbed out for the night; Chester Hansen on bass; Alexander Sowinski on drums—was tasked with opening the show.

Whitty, a recent fulltime addition to the band, strode out in his best spring-break wardrobe and began to blow the Norah Jones hit “Don’t Know Why” on his tenor. The group played it slow and straight without solos, a suitable cruise-ship stroll. When the song was over, the crowd clapped politely, a little confused but fairly accepting that these four young men were going to sling some cheese until the main acts were ready. Instead they delivered a beating, unleashing blazing saxophone solos and a road-tested rhythmic ferocity on the 1,600-strong audience. Between tunes, Sowinski, wearing a T-shirt promoting a mythical Cubist basketball team called the Picasso Bulls, offered frenetic banter. By the end of the set, people were hollering at the stage for more. BBNG had blown a few minds and befuddled a few others. The parade of stars could now proceed until the early morning.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published