Now in their 10th year together, The Bad Plus have just recorded the first album comprised solely of their trio’s originals, “Never Stop” (Entertainment One Music). It may sound surprising for the trio’s original approach to the piano trio, in terms of repertoire as much as musical approach has been a factor in establishing them as one of the major acts to emerge over the past decade. Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King certainly have reconstructed some familiar pop songs and now with “Never Stop” they take their approach to all new material.
Drummer King composed the opening “The Radio Tower Has a Beating Heart” which opens with pianist Iverson stating the somewhat dramatic theme against King’s free drumming before some free sounding trio playing which is followed a repetitive, structured segment. Bassist Anderson contributed the driving title track with Iverson’s somewhat romantic piano set against King’s rock-influenced groove. Perhaps no track better displays the trio’s appeal as they mix what might appear superficially disparate musical approaches into performances that can leave the attentive listener mesmerized.
King’s “My Friend Metatron” is built upon a funky bass riff with Iverson’s piano lead moving from evoking pop songs to frenzied impressionism while the rendition of Anderson’s ballad “People Like You,” contrasts with spare playing from all three with Iverson’s piano especially attractive here. “Beryl Loves to Dance,” has an exuberant sounding theme which Iverson playfully explores against King’s rigid time-keeping. It is followed by the impressionism of “Snowball” where Anderson taking a strong bass solo.
Iverson’s “Bill Hickman At Home” has a theme that hints at some of Keith Jarrett’s quartet recordings of thirty years ago with more fine bass from Anderson. King’s “Super America” from King is a short exhilarating instrumental that closes this recording on a finger-snapping mode. After ten years Bad Plus continues to provoke, entertain and mesmerize with their very individualistic approach to the piano trio.
This review has appeared in the Dec. 15, 2010-Feb. 1, 2011 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 332, pp.16-17), downloadable at jazz-blues.com. My review copy was provided by a publicist for the recording.