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Pure jazz punks: Badbadnotgood and Bishop Nehru live in London

30 June 2016, 17:08 | Written by Andrew Misuraca Faraldo

When I was 19 I could barely hold the attention of my friends, let alone a packed out Village Underground. Opener Bishop Nehru handles the crowd like a veteran. His mind must function in dog years.

There's a sparse and no BS bare brick/bar/bogs layout, with a stage occupying the far side of the venue, booming as if this 700 capacity venue were its own little festival. Nehru's quiet confidence is unfazed by the rubbish light show which flashes half-arsedly for about half a verse in whichever damn song the light guy pleases.

His flow is reminiscent of the golden age, particularly on J Dilla-produced Nehruvia track "Welcome" which elicits a roar of approval from the crowd. “Let me get a hand in the air for Dilla,” Nehru asks in his memory, the bopping mass throwing their hands up enthusiastically.

After a few more choice cuts, he draws the set to a close with a couple of a cappella verses, and the joy is palpable as Dj Lily Mercer takes us to the break.

BBNG open up with a super smooth version of Norah Jones' "Don’t Know Why" and a brief introduction from drummer Alexander Sowinski. Although they’re known for their reworking of songs, I’m not sure anyone was expecting that level of smooth to kickstart proceedings. A girl is later overheard on the phone saying “she brought me along but they’re playing hotel motel music and I just wanna leave”.

Newly official fourth member Leland Whitty is formally introduced and they tear into "Confessions" in which they break for an extended sax solo and Whitty shows us what he’s made of. After giving a shout out to Gilles Peterson for giving them their first show outside of Toronto and giving love to London, thanking everyone for being here in spite of all the weird shit going on in the world, they go into another smooth reinterpretation of "Hello" by Adele and a jumping version of "Putty Boy Strut" by Flying Lotus, each with an irresistible charm of its own.

"Kaleidoscope" is invigoratingly ripped and bassist Chester Hansen pogos almost incessantly whilst Matthew Tavares lurches around the keys. Sowinski cares not for dragging and pushes through with urgency. The usual solos go from blistering thrash jazz madness to smooth latin piano progressions, from Bad Brains to Steely Dan in the space of two bars and back before Sowinski takes a solo; snares off, relentless bass drum, cymbals washing. He slows to talk unity and change in these trying times, how lucky he is to play with his band and champion artistic interest, shout outs to Gilles and their collaborators once more before cracking back into the song.

As the second half gets under way we’re treated to a rousing version of "Speaking Gently", from new album IV, which fires on all cylinders and leads us into the more straight-up, jazzier section of the night including another new track, "Cashmere", and a final display of chops and musicality that practically defines modern cool.

They’re more accomplished players than they let on through their records, but their live show is imbued with a garage band quality which is nothing short of endearing, yet magnificently purposeful. It gives a sense that if these four geeky Canadians can make this sprawling, engaging kind of basement jazz with the owned ease of a bunch of friends jamming out, then who says Iceland can’t win the Euros? Go on! What they may lack in sheen they make up for in passion; pure jazz punks.

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