Review: BADBADNOTGOOD lays out its unique jazz takes in front of sold-out Portland crowd

Bad Bad Not Good played Portland’s Revolution Hall on Dec. 15, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Conor Olthius)

Revolution Hall was filled to the brim Friday night in downtown Portland as the nonchalant, high achieving Toronto-based jazz quartet, BADBADNOTGOOD, took the stage in the former high school auditorium, now a decorated performing arts venue.

The young jazz chamber comprises Alex Sowinski on drums, Matthew Tavares on the keyboard (filled in by James Hill for the tour), Chester Hansen on bass and Leland Whitty on woodwinds. The band is coming off its most commercially-successful solo album yet, “IV,” which was released mid-2016. The album, much like with the whole of the quartet’s career, is lauded for creative blurring of what’s jazz and what’s not. They also incorporate tinges of hip-hop and electronica to produce a stream of satisfying compositions.

1939 Ensemble, a Portland instrumental quartet that focuses on alternative jazz percussion revolving around electric vibraphone play, opened up for BADBADNOTGOOD. The ensemble’s 50-minute set acted as an eccentric jazz appetizer for the crowd; the band knew its purpose, and they played into it nicely.

The Portland jazz community was excited about the headlining quartet.1939 Ensemble drummer and frontman Jose Medeles didn’t shy away from showing his love and adoration for BADBADNOTGOOD before leaving the stage. KMHD DJ Allen Thayer provided a flattering introduction for the band while the crowd’s anticipation crescendoed.

Then, in fashion-conscious jeans and tees, BADBADNOTGOOD emerged, with light coming from their side, back and above causing their shadows cast along the venue walls. The faint, colorful lighting bounced off the tasteful rugs on the stage floor to create a cool atmosphere around the double-decker electric keyboard and cool, teal electric bass.

The setlist borrowed almost exclusively from the quartet’s albums “III” and “IV.” Throughout its hour-and-20-minute show, BADBADNOTGOOD expanded upon some of its more popular compositions like “And That, Too,” “CS60” and “Speaking Gently” among others, even offering their take on Kaytranada’s remix of their track off “III,” “Kaleidoscope.”

BADBADNOTGOOD’s live repertoire silences any who refuses to consider them jazz. Their tasteful dwelling on their studio cuts allowed for expert soloing and for the compositions to become more improvisational. Each instrument had a chance to shine, and no performer was outdone in their soloing. In addition to their nonchalant image, the band really is comprised of jazz veterans.

On stage, the crew jelled like the best friends. Sowinski and Whitty would periodically and humorously lead the crowd in waving their arms as Hill displayed his delicate dexterity on the keys. Midway through the set, members of the band doffed their socks and shoes, completing the show barefoot.

The band truly has the talent to carry themselves with a serious demeanor, but they don’t take themselves that seriously. Sowinski would jokingly address the crowd mid-song, even if only to say, “Can I get a fuck yeah?”

And as if the show needed more elements for the sake of entertainment, Friday night also marked James Hill’s birthday, and before getting off the stage, the crowd sang him “Happy Birthday” to perhaps the greatest rendition of “Happy Birthday” ever heard, performed by the band, of course.

But that was only before they left the stage the first time. Once they left, only a few in the crowd followed. A heavy majority of the audience stayed and cheered, and after a few minutes of that, the band re-emerged and pounded a lengthy rendition of “IV” into the ears of everyone present.

Once the band resolved the album’s title track and shared a few words detailing their love for Portland, BADBADNOTGOOD bowed in unison in the middle of the stage and made their final exit.

Follow Jordan on Twitter @montero_jor.

Arts Editor

Jordan Montero is the Arts Editor at the Daily Emerald. A few of his favorite things are Steely Dan, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Please consider donating to the Emerald. We are an independent non-profit dedicated to supporting and educating this generation's best journalists. Your donation helps pay equipment costs, travel, payroll, and more!