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Band Hip Hop Jazz


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Toronto trio Badbadnotgood have had an unusual rise to fame for a jazz band. Their bop covers of Odd Future, Slum Village's "Fall In Love" and Gucci Mane's "Lemonade" exploded on the web before Humber music students Matt Tavares, Alex Sowinski and Chester Hansen had ever performed for a crowd. A few days after their live debut at Toronto's Red Light and the Bandcamp release of their debut BBNG, I sat down with drummer Sowinski and pianist Tavares to discuss rap versus jazz, their unique aesthetic and how they pick covers.

What was the feeling when you all met?
Alex Sowinski: I guess it was fun when we all met and connected with the same music. It was amazing.
Matthew Tavares: When we first played [Miles Davis songs] "Milestones" or "Footprints", that was cool. I remember playing with another band earlier in the week and then playing with [BBNG], and it was so good. Totally different levels of hype. I think the thing we bonded over was how much we hate [traditional] jazz.

What jazz do you like?
T: Bill Evans. Can you put that in bold? Eric Dolphy is great, Out To Lunch. I listen to more jazz than you... Shouts out to John Coltrane, shouts out to Miles Davis.
S: Obviously A Love Supreme is pretty sick. You ever heard Black Codes by Wynton Marsalis?
T: There's a lot of jazz that's good. The problem is, most people don't make that kind of music anymore. In that traditional sense, jazz is something that's already happened. Bebop was good because we have all these great bebop recordings from the '50s, not because Pat Lebarbera plays bebop now.
S: When that shit was coming out, it was fresh and new. No one had done A Love Supreme before, so when that came out, it was amazing. People just want to recreate that and can't do it justice.
T: It's so annoying that anyone who wants to play jazz now sounds like Bird or Coltrane. I feel like everyone who's pushing the format is either making it cheesier or pushing it into some weird electronic. No one's doing any major landmark in the music anymore.

Did you hear the Colin Stetson record?
T: Yeah, Modern Warfare Vol. 1. It's awesome. But it's the same problem, I have a bunch of Evan Parker albums and it's kind of the same thing. There's a lot of people that like jazz but hate free jazz. The [Stetson] record is definitely groundbreaking, just that he can use his sax that way.

I know you guys like Robert Glasper too, who does a few hip-hop covers..
T: He's awesome and lame at the same time. I can't get behind the use of the vocoder at all. And the last few tracks on his last record aren't jazz or hip-hop, they're just straight-up lame.
S: He's great but I feel you can only hear the arrangements as a trio, with Chris "Daddy" Dave, so many times before it gets boring. That's probably why they added the sax with vocoder.
T: He does do hip-hop but he just plays the beats. He's not really interpreting them, they don't change anything but recreate the beat. When Charlie Parker plays a standard, he doesn't recreate the shitty Broadway tune.

Glasper also did J Dilla covers, and you cover Slum Village's "Fall In Love." How do you find a way to play with the odd time signatures of a Dilla or Flying Lotus beat?
S: I just try to be rhythmically aware of what they do, not even learning all the beats, all the stuttered sounds. More the mentality. He's going to play a beat and it's going to be off-kilter, and I'll just think about that and try to do it with my drumming. But try not to think about it, just try to push it, speed it up or slow it down or literally add a pause that's off-time because I know I can do it. I take it from the philosophical aspect of doing those things in [Dilla's] music, instead of the strict dimensions of time.

What do you look for in a song to cover?
S: There are a lot of cover bands but there's not many people taking hip-hop beats and writing arrangements for them. There are standards in every genre but not in hip-hop.
T: People think covers are lame when it's just the same song by a different person. That's why it's something you can get away with in jazz, people can play a jazz standard and it will sound different.

That's why you can play a Waka Flocka song.
T: For me, the reason you can play jazz standards is because old people know those melodies. They can hear "Stella By Starlight" on Jazz FM and know how it goes. So if you play a hip-hop song that people know, they can hear your version and appreciate what's happening. A young person doesn't give a fuck how you play "Stella By Starlight."
S: I get that jazz standards exist but why are they still coming up? The people who teach us music [at Humber] make their living playing the same standards.

Take me through the process of playing a cover of something like "Hard In The Paint."
S: The first time we recorded, we were just jamming while we waiting three hours for the mics to be set up. At our first show, we went totally crazy playing "Electric Relaxation." It's supposed to be a more laidback song but we just went fucking crazy. Dynamically I guess I'm more in control because I'm playing an acoustic instrument, and I know they'll be right there.
T: It's all listening. I listen to Alex because I know if Alex crashes somewhere, if I'm not there with him, I sound like I'm making a mistake. So I'm always making sure I'm building the same intensity as Alex so it seems like I'm not doing anything wrong. We didn't know when anything was supposed to end that show.
S: Sometimes I'm ending a song and they have no idea so they just listen and watch. I'll lift my hands up and they'll stop. There's been a few times where we're like, "Ah, fuck" [laughs].

Where did the idea for the YouTube videos come from?
S: For the [first] Odd Future medley, that was something we did four takes of. I had actually played the same songs for a recital and got a 70. Like, they don't know what [Gucci Mane]'s "Lemonade" is!
T: The videos were progressively less and less rehearsed,
S: The pumpkin and the masks, that all stuff [the cameraman] had lying in their apartment.
T: The lion costume, that was my friend Mitch.
S: He was like, "I just bought this lion costume for $50 off Craiglist, let's use it." No correlation to what we had done, just thought we'd put it in there. The pig mask was a joke. Since you use the face so much for signaling, having it covered shows how good [Matt and Chester] are at listening.

What about the 40 oz. in the "Electric Relaxation" video?
S: That was a streak of luck. We were going to go to the Odd Future show. So when Chester came down to record that weekend, we jammed the [Tyler, the Creator's Goblin] medley number two a few times and then we recorded it. After that, we ran to the Beer Store and grabbed a couple 40s. Then we were like, we have some extra time, let's do "Electric Relaxation." I'm like, cool, put the 40 on my drum, didn't even think about it. So we start playing and I use the 40 and Chester says, Okay, I'm going to stop playing because that thing is in perfect tune.
T: It was perfectly in E-flat.

Did the sampler come in the same way?
S: Just the Friday before the show, I thought I'll sample some stuff for the show and see how it works out. I think it added a sick element to the show. Even the [MF] Doom medley we recorded, there was no a cappella. I thought it'd be cool to drop the a cappella to [Doom song] "Vomitspit" for a second before going into the song.
T: I think it adds that extra level of entertainment. Any time you thought it was going to get boring, you just drop a funny Lil B sample and it's like, ah, that's hilarious. We were worried that people wouldn't be entertained. Obviously a five-minute YouTube video is different from an hour-and-a-half long live show.

Do you see yourself working with rappers?
T: That'd be amazing.
S: Hopefully with the connections we made at this show, we can do some more beats and work with people. Anyone can sample what we put online, that's a free-ass mixtape. We'd totally be down. If it sucks, we're going to know! But yeah, do it up.
- Exclaim

"BADBADNOTGOOD: "Hard In Da Paint" (Live Waka Flocka Flame Cover) (Video)"

First things first: I realize that in terms of what BADBADNOTGOOD is covering here -- the beat, not the lyrics -- this ridiculously ill take on "Hard in da Paint" should have Lex Luger's name attributed to it. But it is technically Waka Flocka Flame's song, so that's why you see his name up there. In all fairness, though, Luger did make the track the monster that it is, even though Waka's always-hype rapping propelled it into the stratosphere of parking lot brawls.

OK, enough music nerd talk. The Toronto-based jazz trio recently performed at Redlight, a small music venue in their hometown. And while they were blowing minds with their post-bop takes on popular hip-hop joints, a photographer named Sean Berrigan was on hand with his camera for website Matt Goingham (hilarious).

He caught some incredible footage of BADBADNOTGOOD's take on "Hard in da Paint," which it's safe to assume you'll be watching at least twice. And after that, you're probably going to want to share this one with your friends. That's not an order, either, merely an inkling. Watch the performance below and download the trio's projects here. - Prefix Magazine

"Odd Future, Move Over: Flying Lotus Gets Jazz Treatment By Canadian Trio"

Who says jazz is dead? Nobody, if Canadian trio BADBADNOTGOOD has anything to do with it.

Back in April, we happened upon the group's eight-minute re-imagining of two songs from Tyler, the Creator's Bastard and (our personal favorite) Gucci Mane's "Lemonade." Sometimes the cream, not the terrible videos we immediately swipe our internet history of, really does rise to the top: "The Odd Future Sessions Pt. 1" now has over 150,000 views on YouTube.

In late June, the trio released a three-song medley of Tyler's solo debut, Goblin. Yesterday, they Tweeted a link to their version of our very own extraordinaire experimental producer Flying Lotus' song "Camel."

We're down with any jazz group whose drummer uses a 40-ounce as an instrument and whose videos include a random dude grooving in a lion costume while being watched by a glowing jack-o-lantern. Oh, and did we mention they're really, really good?

BADBADNOTGOOD, also known as "The Odd Trio," is pianist Matt Tavares, bassist Chester Stone Hansen and Alex Sowinski, usually wearing a pig mask, on the drums. The guys, all 19 or 20 years old, met at Humber College in Toronto, and bonded over their mutual musical interests--Odd Future, Gucci Mane, and Waka Flocka Flame (our heads almost exploded when we pondered a jazzy reworking of "Hard in Da Paint").

Of course, there's no sheet music for Odd Future, and forget Gucci Mane, so they just picked out the songs by ear. With "Camel," Tavares says, "I liked that beat. We had a free eight-hour studio session with our friend, and we just kinda jammed on it. The biggest thing with jazz music is when most of those old guys--say, Charlie Parker--played something, they just had an idea of what a song's melody and chord changes would be, and what they played otherwise just kinda happened."

In other words, no extensive process, just extensive talent. - LA Weekly

"Odd jazz covers"

Toronto jazz group BADBADNOTGOOD covers Odd Future, play debut gig
By Anupa Mistry

BADBADNOTGOOD might be a music nerd’s wet dream – if said nerd is equally enamored by traditional musicianship and the demented, sophomoric fantasies of Odd Future.

In just four months, the jazz trio has netted hundreds of thousands of YouTube views siphoning a suite of rap songs into riveting, masterful covers.

Drummer Alex Sowinski, pianist Matt Tavares and bassist Chester Hansen met in 2010 through Humber College’s renowned jazz program. Like most young people they quickly bonded over music, shares Sowinski. A slew of jazz icons were on the list, including contemporary pianist and frequent R&B collaborator Robert Glasper, but also outré rap acts like MF Doom and “Odd Future, before they got big.”

They decided to try Gucci Mane’s plinking, saccharine Lemonade first. This was later immortalized in a video, The Odd Future Sessions: Part One, which reached Tyler, The Creator. “I Love Jazz, This Is Fucking Sick! Dave Brubeck Trio Swag,” Tyler tweeted in April.
“Tyler’s tweet was crazy, and there was a good response so we decided to keep going,” says Sowinski. “We really wanted to push it because we were getting sick of what jazz is, but it never clicked that putting trap-style rap music to jazz is new territory.” In mid-June, they uploaded a free six-song album to Bandcamp.

Wolf Gang pranksterism seeps into the group’s slinky YouTubes, some filmed at a condo overlooking King and Bathurst. In most, Sowinski keeps time in a creepy pig-faced mask, “for fun and a dramatic effect.” In the video covering A Tribe Called Quest’s Electric Relaxation, he improvises on a half-chugged 40 oz bottle. These weird, youthful accents heighten the jazz trio’s ability to filter a formal music education through a hyper cultural lens. It’s all by ear, with no transcription involved.

A laidback rendition of Slum Village’s Fall in Love was captured in the first take, says Sowinski who describes his band mates as “superb musicians.” And it’s kind of big to get nods from a Coltrane-bloodline virtuoso like Flying Lotus, after covering his song, Camel.

On Saturday, BADBADNOTGOOD play a debut show at the Red Light and will release another mixtape of covers plus an original improvisational jam. Featured songs will be a surprise, Sowinski says. Fingers crossed for some Waka Flocka Flame.

At Red Light (1185 Dundas Street West), Saturday (September 17), 8 pm. $5.
Sep 15, 2011 at 12:25 AM
- Now Toronto


Released June 2011
1. Untitled 63 - Nightmare - Yonkers 11:53
2. Electric Relaxation 04:26
3. Salmonella 01:47
4. Hard In The Paint 03:29
5. Bastard - Lemonade / Orange Juice - AssMilk 08:00
6. Untitled 63 - Nightmare - Yonkers (Alt. Take) 11:13


Released September 2011
1. Based Is How You Feel Inside 01:22
2. Fall In Love 04:11
3. Improvised Jam 03:54
4. Mass Appeal / Transmission 04:51
5. I Got A Bad Feeling About This 00:07
6. Salmonella 01:47
7. Freedom / Billium Evans (Prod. Seeds of Yaris) 05:17
8. The World Is Yours / Brooklyn Zoo 06:22
9. Listeriosis 04:14
10. Camel 03:04
11. Title Theme / Saria's Song / Song Of Storms 09:34
12. Outro / Glasper 01:53




It all started with a YouTube video. Three young men flipped Odd Future songs into a jazz medley in an abandoned apartment. The drummer wore a pig mask. They were christened the Odd Trio via cardboard sign.

Toronto residents Matthew A. Tavares, Chester Hansen and Alex Sowinski first met in Humber College’s Music Performance program, bonding over a common love for Odd Future, Gucci Mane and Lil B. They began jamming casually and the Odd Trio was assembled. Matthew A. Tavares on piano and synths, and bassist Chester Hansen and Alex Sowinski on skins. Tavares and Sowinski also do double duty on sampler for instrumental beat freakouts in their live shows.

The first Odd Trio video became a viral sensation and they began to cultivate a devoted fanbase through YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr. The trio dropped the new videos on the regular and millions of hits later, the newly recristened Badbadnotgood released their self-titled EP in June. The Badbadnotgood EP mixed up the two Odd Future medleys, the original “Salmonella” and an inspired cover of Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard In The Paint”; Tavares subs keys for Lex Luger’s menacing synths while Sowinski becomes a human drum machine. Hansen shines whether supplying the pumping bass of “Orange Juice” or effortless in-pocket swing of “Electric Relaxation”.

Inspired equally by Lil B, Waka Flocka Flame, John Coltrane and Robert Glasper, Badbadnotgood find the post-bop in Big Apple classics (Nas’ “The World Is Yours”, Gang Starr’s “Mass Appeal”, Tribe’s “Electric Relaxation”), Zelda themes and the off-kilter electronic of Flying Lotus (“Camel”).
These are hip hop standards but they aren’t sacred.” “Mass Appeal” bleeds into a throbbing run through Joy Division’s “Transmission”. On “Electric Relaxation”, Sowinski swaps drums for a half-empty 40 oz, the Olde English falling perfectly in pitch. They were strictly a studio creation until mid September, where BBNG sold out their debut show at Toronto’s Red Light Club; that same day, the band dropped their debut full length BBNG on Bandcamp, mixing more rap covers (including a warm, swaying take on Slum Village’s “Fall In Love”) with Zelda covers and a host of originals, including Sowinski’s ominous sampler workout “Freedom/Billium Evans”. The Needle Drop’s Anthony Fantano was effusive in his praise for the album: “I’m excited about what this LP means for jazz, what it means for hip hop, and what it means for music fans”.

Soon a friendship on Twitter and shared love of Brick Squad led to jam sessions with Tyler, the Creator himself, captured for posterity on YouTube. A live version of Bastard’s “Seven” and an instrumental take on “Fish” with Tyler on keys were especially magnetic. At the end of the vid for “Fish”, a hyped Tyler repeatedly proclaimed the jam “the coolest thing ever!”

The band’s praise is quickly matching their renown. Badbadnotgood have received coverage in a number of publications, including Now, Respect Magazine, Prefix Magazine, Chart Attack, Hypebeast and Passion of the Weiss. David Dacks at Exclaim! Magazine proclaimed Badbadnotgood “2011's gateway drug into deeper states of consciousness”.

Coming off a high profile spot opening for jazz legend Roy Ayers in November, the band are prepping for a big 2012: in January of 2012, BBNG played Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards show in London, alongside Thundercat and SBTRK. Besides their next mixtape, the trio are also working with Toronto producer Frank Dukes (50 Cent, Danny Brown, Ghostface Killah) and set to record more tracks with Odd Future in the coming months.

This isn’t jazz rap. This isn’t a cover band. It’s Badbadnotgood, based jazz for your soul and your mind.