“Confessions” / Bad Bad Not Good (With Colin Stetson)

(Colin Stetson on the right recording with Leland Whitty from BBNG on the left)

John Fraim

I somehow came upon the band Bad Bad Not Good (BBNG) through my journey these past few weeks into the world of DJs and particularly DJ Day. I somehow arrived thorugh various Internet links and sites at the music of this exciting new jazz direction from Toronto. I watched a YouTube video of Colin Stetson on their Fourth album. But the cut in the video was not accepted for the album. Rather it was the above piece. I still remember the haunting music of Stetson on the last five minutes of the brilliant film Hereditary. I thought this stretch of music one of the most stunning pieces of music ever put into a film.

Now, Colin Stetson captured with the Toronto group BBNG in an absolutely stunning performance. Current BBNG consists of Matther Travers on the keyboards, Alex Sowinski on the drums and samplers, Chester Hansen on the bass guitar and Leland Whitty on saxophone, flute,viola, violin and guitar. A touring addition is James Hill on keyboards.

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The title of the music and the music itself seem such a powerful expression of what I am feeling now after the tragic shootings in Texas and Ohio over the past few days. Or really what I am feeling over the claimed 250 mass shootings in the country just in 2019 so far. Once we stop treating this question as another political question, we’ll go a long way towards solving great tragedies like this in our nation. Only then can we focus on the real problems causing this violence in our nation. Only then as a united group of people, all able to agree on one thing. For once. I can’t remember it ever happening in my lifetime. Others of my generation might take up some disagreement. But this is the way I see it in my life.

The powerful music above does not attempt to look outside for the problems of modern America. But rather inside. And, perhaps the greatest inside observation and outside expression is in that word “confession.” It means so much in our own person lives right now. That we partake in some type of confession for one’s own life right now. Some type of summing up of one’s worldview at this moment in time. And, is there any project of greater importance that one should pursue?

Not only does the word confession serve to illustrate the purpose of this piece so well, the music is so powerful for me. So much above all the other trite stuff that buzzes around us all day. But a new presence of John Coltrane in the world. It should be obvious to any fan of Tranes that this piece is so much influenced by his music.

John Coltrane / Trane’s Music Never Dies

And, the fact I can communicate this music to my list quickly like this via a link to a YouTube video marks an important lesson. Innovative, avant-garde music is best spread today not through music channels but rather through video channels. In other words, it is (currently) easier as well as marketing wise to put music in YouTube videos and post to YouTube or other niche services like YouTube. This is what someone did with the piece you are listening to. Thanks to YouTube. And thanks to the millions posting independent music via YouTube posts. The quickest and cheapest way (right now, late summer 2019) to reach larger audiences. YouTube is more powerful than the current pure music channels on the Internet.

But as everyone knows, things are quickly changing these days. Who knows what will be the next way to get music out to the world. One thing is for sure. It is certainly not through the traditional music channels.

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So, a toast to this powerful new group. Long time since I’ve heard power like this is music. A long time since I’ve heard a “confession” in music. A confession of the powerful new jazz group BBNG working with an incredible musician named Colin Stetson.

I’m not in favor of the dumb name of the band. It makes no sense in the grand universe of “brand” names. But then, the band mocks giving itself any serious name. They back up their mock with some of the most powerful modern jazz heard in a long time. At least by this jazz fan. Then again, maybe it is the point to appear dumb in label and then to fight against all efforts at branding your art.

After all our ranting raves and and footnotes to the above, we’re still left with an incredible band called Bad Bad Not Good. (I first wanted to write the headline of this review as Good Good Not Bad.) To be explored via below site if one is so inclined. In the end, the word “confession” seems such approriate actions that all service members should/would nation participate in. A national confession. To me, this would be the highest effort to pull the efforts of our nation together. The one face to coming together as a nation is more the first person voice in this story.

It is not a matter of looking at content in the West analytical mode. Rather, it is really a matter of looking at context rather than content. Of course a reversioning of the classic McLuhan dualism between the medium and media, context and content. The piece – to me – such a good example of this power. And, the power of two saxophones against each other. A battle that was seldom heard in music.

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Anyway, it seems to me that we will never solve our problems if we continue using the third person perspectives. We need first person confessions, not third person perspectives. This piece of music defines a new genre of music it seems to me. A genre not too far away from the music of Trane.


John Fraim was editor of the Jazz NewsLetter from 1977 to 1980. He is also author of Spirit Catcher: The Life & Art of John Coltrane.

(See the interview with John Fraim and the Internet site Jerry Jazz Musician


(Winner Best Biography of the Year from the American Small Press Association)

Spirit Catcher

The website for BBNG.

The website for Colin Stepson.


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