WHEN THREE jazz students at Toronto's Humber College presented their version of Gucci Mane's "Lemonade," their classically trained professors scoffed. So the trio, dubbed BadBadNotGood, did what any true millennial would: They posted their music on the internet.
"The Odd Future Sessions" popped up on YouTube in April 2011. The video began rumbling across blogs, and by October, Tyler, the Creator was cavorting around drummer Alex Sowinski's basement, rapping along to the trio's covers. By 2012, the three had begun their professional careers as post-bop hiphop instrumentalists.
Now they're a seasoned, dream-team backing band that's played with everybody from Ghostface Killah to Frank Ocean and Roy Ayers. Currently, BBNG is touring the world on the tails of their third full-length, III, released in May by Innovative Leisure, a label founded by two ex-Stones Throw employees.
"We've definitely seen the limits of our stamina, but the more shows we play, the more inspired we get to go home to our studio and create," says bassist Chester Hansen.
They continue to drive their genre's malleable boundaries, creating refreshing, inventive, and dynamic jazz. "We really have no idea what we're going to end up sounding like in the next few months," Hansen admits. "We're getting even more into different types of live instrumentation and even hopefully adding string parts and horn parts and getting really out there with what we can do."
Some claim the BadBad boys are bringing back jazz, or reinvigorating the century-worn genre for a younger audience. But the three don't necessarily see it that way. As Matthew Tavares, the keyboardist, flatly explains, "We don't really think about stuff like that a lot. Like, I don't know what it means [to 'bring back jazz']. It's just the music we like to play."
Hansen adds, "We obviously don't put that much thought into it. We just listen to all our influences and try to combine them."