Published Aug 13, 2014Sure, Toronto jazz trio Badbadnotgood may look like a bunch of fresh-faced kids in their early 20s, but they play like they have 30 years of experience, proving how tight yet explosive they can be in every moment. As keyboardist Matthew Tavares, who split hands between a Korg digital piano and a Prophet '08, bassist Chester Hansen and drummer Alexander Sowinski took the stage, Tavares started playing the riff from "For No One" by the Beatles before the band launched into "Triangle," the first of many tracks they'd take from their Polaris Prize long listed 2014 album III and brilliantly expand in the live setting. Throughout their set, they had intense focus on each other; Tavares and Sowinski locked eyes for much of the show, while Hansen, gazing in their direction, shuffled nervously back and forth stage right.
Sowinski was the most visible star of the show. He dazzled on the drums, delivering crazy fills and broken beat grooves with vibrant articulation at breakneck speeds. Plus, he rocked it on banter duty, smooth and gracious, promising to go hard and push the energy they'd been fostering amongst themselves deep into the crowd. They delivered on his word, inciting a mosh pit that would be respectable for most punk shows, among rounds of clapping and snapping to the beat. He also thanked the promoters and bar staff, and repeatedly thanked the crowd. Near the end of their set, during their extended version of "CS60," he stopped the music to take a picture of his band mates with the crowd giving peace signs behind them, then they all hung around and gave everyone who came up to the stage high fives and fist bumps.
Which isn't to say Tavares and Hansen weren't incredible, too. Tavares produced as much swagger as anyone can muster on piano, while Hansen unleashed the most blistering bass fretwork this side of Thundercat, particularly when given the chance to solo on "Kaleidoscope." Their friend and frequent collaborator Leland Whitty joined them onstage to lend his saxophone to a few tracks, including the complicated riff for their cover of "Putty Boy Strut" by Flying Lotus.
The energy kicked up a notch for their cover of "Bugg'n" by TNGHT, with Tavares standing at the keys, stands and Hansen finally breaking out of his pacing routine, leaping center stage like a young Flea while the crowd moshed; when the song finished, the bassist high-fived everyone in the front row.
Granted, their hip-hop- and electronic-influenced sound may never be fully accepted by jazz purists, but forward moves like this, injections of fresh blood and ideas, are essential for the continuation of the genre, particularly in a city like Vancouver where so many of its traditional jazz landmarks have fallen in recent years (Cory Weeds' Jazz Cellar Club, The Yale Hotel, etc). There's no way any doubt as to their skill and presence can survive for anyone who's seen them live. They are the real deal, and if this memorable night was any indication, they're going to ride this thing as far out there as they can.