Badge Époque Ensemble is a Toronto septet composed of a groovy guitar, an aerial flute and saxophone, lively percussion and positive electric vibrations generated by oscillating synths, a quivering Fender Rhodes and lots of other gizmos that make the subcutaneous throbbing just right. Self Help is the second full-length album from the band (which also has an EP to its credit). It’s the first one I’ve listened to, and it’s a discovery!
Badge Époque Ensemble plays with the codes of soul, funk, traditional jazz, and mysticism. Well-supported beats serve as the basis for melodic impulses skillfully adorned by Karen Ng’s sax and Alia O’Brien’s flute, but above all iridescent with the prismatic colours of the different keyboards manipulated by Maximilian “Twig” Turnbull. The result is reminiscent of Steely Dan crossing paths with an unusually grounded Sun Ra in a post-modern Western written by Morricone. Beware, addictive!
Consider “Birds Fly Through Ancient Ruins”, a masterful imaginary flyover of an improbable Anasazi megalopolis forgotten in a secret canyon (I’m inventing here, but I swear, you’ll see it!), “The Sound Where My Head Was”, a beautiful example of funkytude inducing a kind of mystic trance, then “Sing a Silent Gospel”, which fortunately has nothing silent about it.
A band to keep an eye on and that Montreal, a self-proclaimed jazz city, absolutely must host as soon as possible (in the post-COVID era, you can hear it). Oh! And you may wonder why they call themselves the Époque Badge Ensemble? I asked Turnbull the question. No particular logic, except that these words sound good, and even better together. Spontaneity and instinctive inspiration. Why am I not surprised? The music was already announcing it.