Trio of CDs from The Bad Plus (Trio) – These Are the Vistas; Give; Blunt Object – Columbia

by | Jun 22, 2005 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

The Bad Plus – These Are the Vistas – Columbia CK 87040 *****:
The Bad Plus – Give (Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Anderson, bass; David King, drums) – Columbia CK 90771 ****:
The Bad Plus – Blunt Object (Live in Tokyo) CL 92876 (avail. only online at ****:

This amazingly powerful piano trio was founded in 2000 by three players
originally from Minnesota and Wisconsin. I had read about them but
frankly paid little attention after seeing references to their
incorporation of funk and hip-hop into modern jazz.  Just what I’d
rather not hear. Then I heard a track on the local NPR jazz station.
Impression corrected.

These guys are out to connect with younger listeners as well as
open-minded oldsters, but they’re doing it without resorting to
lowest-common-denominator funk, soul or hip-hop. They have brought the
take-no-prisoners approach of rock, and most of all its requirement to
PLAY LOUD, into the acoustic jazz trio of the future.  But they
have retained the melodic hooks that will catch the ears of both jazz
and pop fans, rather than going into interminable solos and lofty jazz
atonalities. Their anarchic but intelligent approach tears apart and
completely reconstructs existing tunes from any genre, as well as
creating spontaneous-sounding original tunes that delight in fresh and
unexpected progressions.

The trio started out by releasing two independent CDs on their own
before their contract with Sony/Columbia, which produced the first two
discs listed above. Their producer is now the renowned Tchad Blake, who
has some original ideas about how to mike and present performers (he
likes to use a binaural dummy head on the drum kit, for one
thing).  The band is a tightly-knit trio with equal sharing of
their sound – it’s not just a rhythm section for pianist
Anderson.  All three members of the partnership contribute to the
original tracks.

The only cover tunes on the first CD are Heart of Glass and Smells Like
Teen Spirit: boy do the Bad Boys deconstruct the last one good.
Feedback from dual walkie-talkies is featured in an outer space,
robot-ridden setting. The closing Silence is the Question includes
strumming on the strings inside the piano and reminded me of Henry
Cowell’s “Tides of Montuna
The second commercial CD includes a super-lyrical treatment of Ornette
Coleman’s Street Woman, and how can you pass up a jazz disc with
original titles such as “Cheney Piñata,” and “Layin’ a Strip for the
Higher-Self State Line”?  I ask you.

The third disc comes in a mini-cardboard sleeve and was recorded live
at Tokyo’s Blue Note, except for the cover tune My Funny Valentine,
which was recorded in NYC. You’ll probably never hear that one the same
way again after being exposed to The Bad Plus’ alternate-universe
treatment.  The live set includes tunes from both studio albums as
well as unreleased covers, of which My Funny Valentine is one. The
drums don’t have the impact heard on the studio CDs.

Tracks (1): Big Eater, Keep the Bugs Off Your Glass and the Bears Off
Your Ass, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Everywhere You Turn, 1972 Bronze
Medalist, Guilty, Boo-
Wah, Flim, Heart of Glass, Silence is the Question.

Tracks (2):  1979 Semi-Finalist, Cheney Piñata, Street Woman, And
Here We Test Our Powers of Observation, Frog and Toad, Velouria, Layin’
a Strip for the Higher-Self State Line, Do Your Sums-Die Like a
Dog-Play for Home, Dirty Blonde, Neptune (The Planet), Iron Man.

– Bad John Henry

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