15th November | Motion

Photo: Jess Greenwood

A lot of people don’t get on with jazz. Middle-aged, middle-class blokes (probably from Redland), full of wine and high on corduroy, eyes closed in reverie, thinking they’re the reincarnation of Jack Kerouac, often put people off jazz. As a genre, it’s more associated with intimate smoke-filled gatherings than packed, cavernous former industrial buildings, but as the sold-out crowd at Motion clearly showed, BadBadNotGood have given jazz a new face and a different energy. Mixed with hip-hop and electronica, their sound was entirely current and clearly welcome. There was barely an old hippie or a young hipster in sight. I reckon I was the only one sporting a cravat and a velvet jacket. Again.

Alexander Sowinski on drums was the mainstay of the evening, giving the kit an industriously off-beat beating. As well as the insistent rhythm of the band, he was also the rich, warm, welcoming voice in between songs, punctuating the blasts of jazzy agitation. At times, he’d duel playfully with Chester Hansen on bass or with Matthew Travers on the keys, whilst Leland Whitty sax-ed up proceedings, either with the tenor or soprano versions.

Whilst instrumentals predominated, they were joined by vocalist Charlotte Day Wilson for three tracks, including one she’d released that day, entitled ‘Doubt,’ and by support act, Rex Orange County, on Glen Campbell’s ‘Wichita Lineman.’ Whilst Wilson’s voice is undoubtedly a blessed thing, you could only get a partial sense of that from this evening, as the mix of sound allowed you to discern that she carried a tune, but her lyrics could have been as acutely-observed and tender, as they could have been a poetic representation of the Brexit negotiations, for all we could hear of them.

Considering that the audience had coughed up their own money to hear what essentially boils down to “good noise,” it was baffling to have to listen to large segments of the crowd conversing through the quiet bits. Maybe we should just mic the audience up upon entry to the venue and be done with it. Let the bastards join in. Equally, reproduction of the band’s sound lacked definition, meaning that what was undoubtedly subtle and virtuosic in origin reached the audience sounding slightly soupy. The drums were the exception to this sound, making Sowinski stand out even further.

Cowbell-donking ‘Lavender’ gained the reception of the evening, its initial low synth rumble was offset by the high echoey synths, making them sound like the house band on the Death Star. ‘Speaking Gently’ and recent album opener ‘And That Too’ were also honoured guests, both tracks hypnotically spiralling. ‘Confessions Pt II’ sounded wondrously like it could have been the theme music for an especially hectic urban cop show of the 1970s. Whilst the performers themselves make for compelling viewing, it is easy to imagine visual images to accompany the highly evocative tunes that they play. No wonder they were 6Music’s album of last year. It turns out that jazz is radradnotcrud. Who knew?

Listen to BadBadNotGood’s album IV below.