BADBADNOTGOOD and J Rocc at Venue, 4/9/18
Toronto’s preeminent experimental jazz meets free-style improvisation hip-hop quartet BADBADNOTGOOD was in town for two sold-out nights of their Canada Spring Tour in VanCity, the latter of which impressively packed Venue Nightclub and on a Monday night.
As if BADBADNOTGOOD was not a gratuitous enough reward at the end of the first day of the work-week, the promise of Beat Junkies founder J Rocc opening up for the post-bop collective only served to further sweeten the proverbial pot. Having established the World Famous Beat Junkies in 1992, J Rocc’s turntablism skills are no secret in the hip-hop community. With a broken English voice-over introduction that borrowed from Isaiah 10:27, J Rocc’s sample would go on to sing the praise of music over sound.
“Music is the anointing of a new type of sound called spirit. It has a very powerful beat. It has the anointing and is what breaks the yolk of silence.”
Following through on an early sample informing the Venue crowd that he was going to be there for awhile, J Rocc’s turntablist ingenuity was put into focus as the pioneer saw the concert hall grow from 50 people to capacity over the duration of his hour-long set. The American DJ and producer at Stones Throw Records dug deep into his extensive catalogue of samples Monday night, even throwing down an amazing tribute to Michael Viner’s The Incredible Bongo Band towards the end of his time on stage. Exiting the stage by having the audience “clap to the beat,” J Rocc cleverly sped the audience participation up to a tempo that resembles the audience applauding. With one hand raised far above his head and a nod to his fans, the Dirty Fingered B-Boy left the stage with a sample heard over the speaker thanking the crowd for the gracious applause.
BADBADNOTGOOD took the sufficiently hot Venue stage with a short “Intro” followed by the titular track off of the band’s latest IV. Drummer Alexander Sowinski is the first member of the band to blow crowd minds by quickly showcasing his Humber College jazz program chops behind the kit. Bassist Chester Hansen is given a tremendous platform with “IV” to show-off an almost incomprehensible amount of skill with the song’s running bass lines throughout. Not to be outdone, keyboardist Matthew Tavares took the reigns of brilliance as the band seamlessly breezed through a rendition of “Funkytime” before ripping through six songs in a row off of the group’s latest (July 2016) release IV.
Absent from BADBADNOTGOOD’s set was much of the (hip-hop based) Sour Soul material which the band co-released with Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah back in 2015. However, never lost in a BADBADNOTGOOD set is the spirit of rap, the genre that brought the (then three-piece) band together in 2010. Having been surrounded by other students in the jazz music program at Humber College (2010) who were not surprisingly focussing on…well, jazz, Tavares, Hansen and Sowinski formed BADBADNOTGOOD after discovering a shared fondness of hip-hop acts MF Doom and Odd Future (Wolf Gang Kill Them All).
The (now) four-piece’s ability to transcend genre allotment without contrivity is unparalleled as evidenced Monday night at Venue on Granville. The imaginative band continues to genre-jump by working with artists such as Earl Sweatshirt, Charlotte Day Wilson, Frank Ocean and saxophonist Colin Stetson. Ending Monday night with an encore that included a lights-out interpretation of “Confessions Pt.2” from IV, BADBADNOTGOOD gave one final tip of the hat to Stetson by ending on the song that was arranged by the oft-contributor to Arcade Fire. Sowinski did much of the talking between songs all evening and concluded the show with the kind of salutation one would expect from a group of “good Canadian kids”.
“We thank you. On behalf of myself, Matt, Chester and Leland have a very good night”.