Tuesday October 14, 2014
From Audiophile Audition
The Bad Plus – Inevitable Western
By: Doug Simpson
Postmodern jazz trio the Bad Plus have progressed a long way since they issued their 2001 self-titled debut. When the threesome—bassist Reid Anderson, drummer David King and pianist Ethan Iverson—began they were infamous for thumping, rock-influenced jazz. Early covers included material by alt-rock icons Nirvana, English heavy-metal masters Black Sabbath and new wave hit-makers Blondie. Earlier this year, as a complete turnabout, the Bad Plus released an album-length performance of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which reduced the classical symphony into a stripped-down format, in a more-or-less straightforward arrangement. But for the Bad Plus, there isn’t a huge step from pop and rock music to classical: the process illustrates the band’s innovative impulse to broaden jazz’s milieu and range and, by extension, convert it into critically- and popularly-accepted music.
You won’t find rock music translations or re-interpreted classical music on the Bad Plus’ latest, the 50-minute Inevitable Western, their tenth studio recording. Instead, Anderson, Iverson and King focus on their own compositions: each member penned three tunes, for a total of nine tracks. The emphasis is melodic development, lyricism, and group interplay and improvisation. Anderson’s opener, “I Hear You,” has an unassuming melody maintained by Iverson’s piano. But the trio gives the theme an unpredictable gradient, particularly noticed via Anderson’s angular bass, and King’s quietly but insistently adjusting percussive accents. These features provide a varied sense of drama and witty demeanor. Musically speaking, Anderson’s second piece, the noisome “You Will Lose All Fear,” has a fascinating, warped responsiveness, with an interior dynamism which is equally inclined toward free improvisation and arranged jazz, as well as by hints of 20th-century modernist classical music. There are forceful, dissonant chords and perky arpeggios, while King offers restless drum fills and percussion rolls. The cut’s first half is roiling, the final half more peaceful. Anderson’s muse also thrives on expressive “Do It Again,” which has some alt-rock music mannerisms and inventive changes.
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