The Bad Plus at the MFA
The Bad Plus
Sunday February 25, 2007
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
It was very difficult to explain The Bad Plus to my mother before taking her to see them at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). I said things like, “Ma, they’re a jazz trio but they’re looked down upon in the traditional jazz world because they cover Queen. They’re amazing!” Then I thought to myself about how weird that sounded, what she must have thought…and my dislike for Queen.
It’s those kinds of ridiculous situations you get yourself into when describing The Bad Plus sound but that’s, aside from the musicianship and songwriting, what makes seeing the band so much a momentous occasion. The sold-out MFA show was powerful!
The band jumped right into pianist Ethan Iverson’s “Mint” and it was apparent, particularly because his drums were wiping out the piano and bass, that drummer Dave King was going be his usual Animal improviser. I looked over to my dear Ma during a smash fill, reading her smiling lips say, “This is intense.” That’s when the band had made a new fan. She loves good music, my ma!
Bassist Reid Anderson’s “You Are” followed. It’s such a lovely tune, one of his most delicate. A song like this shows that band is fearless to their traditionalist disapprovers. This is the present and The Bad Plus are moving forward in so many ways at the same time, like jazz always has directed. King continued to crash down…
“Big Eater,” written by Anderson with the bands heavy appetite in mind, is a fierce piece. It’s impossible not to mention King’s destructive beauty at the peak of a driving climax. His approach is addictively heavy.
They’ve covered such ranging artists including Blondie, Black Sabbath, Björk and Burt Bacharach. That’s just some the B bands. At the MFA they threw in a random T group when they eased into Tears for Fears' “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” I imagined the look on Wynton Marsalis’ sunken face. Listening to that 80s number jazzed out is bizarre because they make it sound as if that’s the way it was intended.
King’s “Thrift Store Jewelry” was solid as always. The lit-up toy buzzer scored the lead role of the drum solo. “Anthem for the Earnest,” another Kinger, is always a heart-pumping race with quick turns to make it exciting! If a beautiful ballad about self-maneuvering bonsai trees from Buenos Aires was what you wanted, Ethan just happened to write one called “Casa Particular,” probably having experienced the scenario most elegantly.
The band ran through a new Anderson piece called “Veril” and I’d have to hear it again to explain, seriously. “Old Money,” a creative-piece-against-this-current-US-government, moved into the Canadian rockers Rush anthem, “Tom Sawyer.” All these new covers are, I don’t know, unexpected…funny…making me kinda like “Tom Sawyer”…by The Bad Plus that is.
Then as a classy set closer, “Prehensile Dream,” reminded everyone of how chillingly haunting the trio can build, become free while keeping melody with crashes, and then calm back to sublime eeriness. Throw in a “Smells Like Teen Spirit” encore and you’ve got possibly of one of the most diverse sets ever played.
Look out for the new album coming out in May entitled PROG. Many of the tunes they did at the MFA will be appearing on the next record. Also I’m not too close too close to any of these spots (bumma!), but here’s the upcoming show list for the band, according their official website:
11 ITHACA, NY -- Cornell University (TBP only)
14 ITHACA, NY -- Cornell University (w/ Mark Morris Dance Group)
15 ITHACA, NY -- Cornell University (w/ Mark Morris Dance Group)
16 PITTSBURGH, PA -- Manchester Craftsman Guild (w/ Joe Lovano Quartet)
17 PITTSBURGH, PA -- Manchester Craftsman Guild (w/ Joe Lovano Quartet)
18 SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- South Orange Performing Arts Center
19 RICHMOND, VA -- University of Richmond, Camp Concert Hall
20 RICHMOND, VA -- University of Richmond, Camp Concert Hall
21 ALEXANDRIA, VA -- Private Event
22 ALEXANDRIA, VA -- Private Event
23 MIAMI BEACH, FL -- Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club
24 MIAMI BEACH, FL -- Arturo Sandoval Jazz Club
06 COLLEGE PARK, MD -- Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
07 COLLEGE PARK, MD -- Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
08 SAN DIEGO, CA -- Saville Theater
10 OAKLAND, CA -- Yoshi's
11 OAKLAND, CA -- Yoshi's
12 OAKLAND, CA -- Yoshi's
13 OAKLAND, CA -- Yoshi's
14 SANTA CRUZ, CA -- Kuumbwa Jazz Center
15 LOS ANGELES, CA -- The Mint
16 LOS ANGELES, CA -- The Mint
17 SEATTLE, WA -- Dimitriou's Jazz Alley
18 SEATTLE, WA -- Dimitriou's Jazz Alley
19 SEATTLE, WA -- Dimitriou's Jazz Alley
20 SEATTLE, WA -- Dimitriou's Jazz Alley
What I’ve Been Hearing:
Eric Dolphy Last Date
Billy Bang 6.16.06 Vision Festival, NYC
Charles Lloyd The Flowering
Clifford Brown & Max Roach At Basin Street
Grant Green Live At Club Mozambique