The Bad Plus, a controversial jazz trio that tours nationally and internationally, had their first ever week long residency at the Jazz Standard, a classy jazz venue in NYC. The band consists of bass player Reid Anderson, drummer David King and pianist Ethan Iverson. And it’s a real band. They have been playing, recording and composing together for over a decade; it’s not a few musicians who got together to play a show or two.
This week at the Jazz Standard The Bad Plus presented new and original compositions by every member of the band. “Yes, we still write our own material,” joked Reid after they finished the first couple of tunes. And all of them write. Their music crosses the lines between jazz, rock, punk and classical music; it defies easy categorization. The Bad Plus is a forward thinking group; they tackle a wide range of music without fear: from covering Nirvana and Pink Floyd to adapting Stravinsky’s epic work The Rite of Spring to the drums-bass-piano format.
The complexity of the music, however, does not make it esoteric or unappealing and the driving force of the trio captivated the audience in the packed club. The intensity of Ethan’s piano and his off beat, at times maddeningly aggressive playing style, was delightful. After an escalating build up the music stops. Freezes. And then proceeds with beauty and grace, electrifying the room where the silent audience sits dazzled.
The show had a natural and relaxed flow. As the bassist Reid Anderson introduced the new material, he looked at David King and Ethan Iverson as they decided what the next tune should be. A few quick glances, a nod, a hint of a smile to confirm what was the next thing to come, and the music starts to flow. Their performance was sophisticated, heavy on the intellectual side, and fresh with ideas. The tightness of The Bad Plus, their almost telepathic communication during the show, and their audacity to explore musical genres and break conventions, is also what makes their live performances exceptionally good.
The seriousness of the night was disrupted towards the end when Anderson started joking about how they appreciate the fact that they are playing at “this swanky jazz club, for such a sophisticated crowd,” and then he started singing in a falsetto inviting the guests to grab their CD on the way out. Not surprising, they received a standing ovation and came back to play one last tune after the encore – a mellow and gentle track from The Rite of Spring. It was a perfect ending for the night.
Anna Yatskevich is Flowers In A Gun’s glamorous jazz & beyond critic! Catch more reviews from her here and follow her on Twitter @jazzaddikt.