Rock has Neil Pert, John Bonham and Keith Moon. Funk has Melvin Parker, Al Jackson and Zigaboo Modeliste. Jazz has Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Art Blakey and now Alexander Sowinski. Sowinski is part of BADBADNOTGOOD, an instrumental hip hop/jazz trio out of Toronto, Canada. This new jazz group (they started in 2010) did not gain much recognition until Tyler, The Creator supported the band at which point they blew up the scene. Their style of blending the culture of hip hop and jazz is profound and works very well, inviting a probably new audience to the greatness of the genre that is jazz. This newfound success has landed them gigs at such notable festivals as the Nujazz festival and a residency at Coachella. This trio is changing the way jazz is viewed by the younger generation and the direction jazz music may be heading.
Although often dawning a pig’s mask, as seen above, the visual impairment certainly does not hinder Sowinski’s playing ability. In their recently released album BBNG2, his playing ability is certainly showcased. He incorporates many different playing styles, racking with the bass heavy first track, and their interpretation of Earl Sweatshirt’s, “Earl” to smoothing it down for the second, more syncopated track “Vices”. His strokes seem to flutter across the hats and snare as he provides the perfect amount of backing to a killer track. The halftime feel of the beginning of “Rotten Decay” is executed to perfection by Sowinski’s perfectly timed crashes and accents. The intense fills at the 4:30 mark really accent Sowinski’s ability to fill up a score with improvisation. In “Limit To Your Love” he shows off his full use of the kit with his floor tom groove. “Bastard/Lemonade” is where this band reveals what they are all about. (Check out Tyler, The Creator’s “Bastard”) Their interpretations of popular hip hop songs exceed expectations. The jazzy spin they put on such songs that are obviously not meant for that style is intriguing, invigorating and genius. Another track along these lines is their beautifully done cover of James Blake’s “CMYK”. I personally didn’t think the original song could get any better, yet their rendition leaves nothing out, exposing every nuance that makes the song clearly recognizable yet adding their own twist and style to it. Going back to Sowinski’s playing, noting gets better than the solid groove he lays down around 3 minutes into “Flashing Lights”. It is so tight and, as a drummer, makes me really appreciate his playing even more. This fantastic album ends with a track, “You Made Me Realize”, that’s just as strong as the rest.
Even though Sowinski’s playing is largely featured in this piece, I would be remised if I didn’t mention the playing of Matthew Tavares and Chester Hansen. In “CHSTER”, Hansen showcases his talents on the bass. He produces sounds at the extreme ends of the range of the bass guitar almost making it unrecognizable. Tavares struts his stuff in “UWM” as he explains what playing the saxophone is all about. The rich warm sounds he produces makes you listen in envy. The three of these talents combined makes for a unbeatable sound. Combine this with the fact that this album was recorded in only one 10 session and that no one over 21 was in any way involved in making it, and you get the latest and the greatest in modern jazz, BADBADNOTGOOD.