The Bad Plus Bring Jazz Touch to Rite of Spring

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Wednesday August 01, 2012

From: WQXR

The Bad Plus Bring Jazz Touch to Rite of Spring
By: Emily Ostertag

At the notorious premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in 1913, riots broke out in the audience. When the boundary-smashing jazz trio the Bad Plus gives the New York premiere of its version of the ballet suite at Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors on Thursday, the crowd will most likely be far less incensed than Stravinsky’s. That’s not to say, however, that the group’s decision to do a jazz cover of The Rite of Spring wasn’t a bold undertaking.

Reid Anderson, the group’s bassist, said that a cover of the piece seemed like a daunting task when the idea was presented to them several years ago as a co-commission from Duke University and Lincoln Center. The majority of the group’s music consists of original compositions and rock and pop covers. But challenges are what they are all about, so they felt that this was an idea they couldn’t ignore. ‘The piece itself is really the motivating factor in the end, but taking on something of that scale and that iconic is audacious,’ said Anderson. ‘There’s a lot of responsibility there, but it’s rewarding.’

Plenty of jazz musicians have done their own versions of classical pieces, but the Bad Plus take this kind of adaptation to a new level. The group approaches classical music almost as they do their covers of Radiohead, Pink Floyd and “Iron Man,” except that improvisation plays less of a role in their classical covers.

“The drums are all improvised because none of these pieces had the drums in mind,’ explained Anderson. In the Stravinsky specifically, ‘some of the bass is through-composed, but it’s completely made-up; I’m not playing the bass part from the score, I’m playing something new.’ For Anderson, doing a cover of a classical piece means staying true to its essence while taking “a somewhat irreverent stance, rhythmically or emotionally or some other way.”

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