The Jazz Universe Inside My Head

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Monday, February 06, 2006

The Bad Plus

The Bad Plus
Saturday January 21, 2006
The Rams Head, Annapolis

For months I had been saying to myself, “Man, I need to see The Bad Plus…NOW.” I always imagined myself in Europe for some reason. I don’t know, it sounded nice. But the sweet daydream came to an end the other day when my friend Brendon told me that the trio was playing in Annapolis the night before the gig. Not being from Maryland, I’d never had the chance to catch show at the Rams Head. It just never fell into place. We were at work and I immediately jumped online, bought two tickets and solidified the deal.
The Bad Plus, made up of Reid Anderson on bass, David King on drums and Ethan Iverson on piano, have been scorching the jazz world for a few years now. On their first three records the band has an entirely acoustic, extremely tight sound that blends jazz and pop in a way that has never been heard before. Breathtaking at times, it creates a mixture of emotions that demands close attention. It’s jazz all right but they’ve brought into existence a quite unique interpretation of it. Their latest disc Suspicious Activity? has hardly left my CD player since I got it. With that in mind, I knew that seeing them live would a thrilling experience.
The show had an early 7:00 p.m. start and we made right before the band went on. The Rams Head seemed like a real laid back joint right from the beginning. We had reserved seats not to far from the stage and the rest of the audience seemed just has excited as I was to see the trio. By the time we ordered a pitcher of beer the band took the stage to a warm welcome. They were dressed in nice suits, as I heard they did, and seemed extremely professional. To get things started Anderson ran off a 10 minute-plus bass solo that made everyone around smile and slowly bop their heads. Iverson and King jumped in and that was it-something special was in the air.
The band ran through extended versions of many tracks of Suspicious Activity?, including “Let Our Gardener Grow,” “The Empire Strikes Backwards,” “Rhinoceros is My Profession,” and (Theme From) Chariots of Fire.” There was only one song that I knew I needed to hear of the new one and that was “Lost of Love.” They played it and that was it for me. The song made me want to spill tears (I’ll admit it). I don’t know many of the song titles of the previous records, and Iverson did announce most of them (should have paid more attention), but everything sounded fresh and inspired.
The thing about The Bad Plus is that they are three of the most skilled players that I’ve ever laid eyes on. Sometimes when a trio has amazing individual players egos tend to get in the way. Not so for The Bad Plus. Together they make acoustic magic. I mean, King has gained total control of the drums and played everything he had in front of him, including the drum stand with spastic mastery. He is truly one of the best drummers around today. Anderson, the composer of most the tunes, plays the upright bass with the same sort of authority. Nothing gets by him. Iverson, the spokesman for the group, reminded me of a mad scientist behind the grand piano. They were up for anything and had the audience’s full attention (except for these loud yuppies near us). I will travel long distances to see this band for a long time. You should if you know what’s good for you.

What I’ve Been Listening To This Week:

Thelonious Monk Quartet Plus Two At The Blackhawk
Miles Davis The Cellar Door Sessions 1970
Eric Dolphy The Illinois Concert
Masada 50th Birthday Celebration Vol.7
George Russell Ezz-thetics


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