Kev’s Music Review: The Bad Plus ‘Prog’

Posted: February 8th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Music Review | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

The Bad Plus ‘Prog’ Album Cover
There are few other jazz groups I am as excited about as The Bad Plus. What can I say about them? I am oftentimes left speechless. Perhaps the most creative band out there, they are redefining lyrical and melodic expression and cohesiveness while throwing you in a merry-go-round of tempo and rhythmic exercises.

The Bad Plus is most definitely the tightest band out there. I have never ever seen a group as syncopated and in-tune with each other as these three. If you don’t believe me, have a listen to my favourite song of their’s, ‘Physical Cities’.

This group is a composer’s dream. The trio, made up of Reid Anderson on bass, Ethan Iverson on piano and David King on drums are all well established and highly individualized composers, each contributing their own works to the large body of work that is The Bad Plus. Each song is uniquely different, painting completely different landscapes, or exploring distinctly different worlds of contemporary jazz.

The Bad Plus built their name and reputation by taking pop standards from rock, funk and other genres and reinterpreting them in the Bad Plus language. I find this strategy is a great introduction for newbies into the contemporary jazz scene, and TBP does it very well.

‘Prog’ has a good sampling of pop standards, but you’ll hear a larger component of the group’s original works. I find it a really good balance of education and exploration. Educating new listeners what is the Bad Plus sound through pop-standard extrapolation, and exploring their own creative prowess with their original compositions.

The balance between the piano, bass and drummer are brilliantly matched. There is not one track on this album where any one player is forced to be subdued. They each bring their unique flavour, but the combination of the three personas is what makes The Bad Plus so memorable.

Billboard magazine had this to say about ‘Prog’: “A gourmet 10-course meal of the sublime (a gorgeous take on Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”), the rowdy (a raucous ride through the original “Physical Cities”) and the eclectic (Iverson’s “Mint,” Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”). Easily the most likable and listenable jazz album of 2007.”

I first saw The Bad Plus live in concert in 04 or 05, when they opened for Joshua Redman at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Back then I was struck mostly by the obtuseness of their effort. It was nothing like I’d ever heard before. Especially David King on the drums, who, during that performance used the skeleton of an umbrella, coat hangers, and other found objects to augment his drum kit. It was the most bizarre spectacle, but they managed to get a foothold in my memory. And that is something to be said, since they opened for Josh Redman during his Momentum album tour; arguably the best concert I’ve ever seen.

I next saw The Bad Plus live in May of 07, when they opened for Roy Hargrove in Toronto during his ‘Nothing Serious’ tour. The Bad Plus stole the show. For me they were stratas above Roy Hargrove that night. What impressed me most again was their tightness, their precision, their decisiveness. I was absolutely awe-struck witnessing ‘Physical Cities’ live.

I may have gone long with this review, but hopefully it will convey to you how extremely impressed I am with The Bad Plus. Check out their website here and hopefully you’ll get hooked on their music as I have. Given, they are not exactly new to the scene; they’ve been around since 2001, but they have a long and bright road ahead of them.

I for one will be with them every step of the way, anxiously expectant of the wondrous twists and turns that await.

Keeping an ear to the ground,