Monday, April 04, 2011

The Bad Plus - NYC Jazz Record

The Bad Plus - Never Stop

Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and
drummer Dave King have been performing as The Bad
Plus for over ten years. Although each is now waistdeep
in their own projects, they have stuck together
without a lineup change, building a rapport that is
almost unmatched in sheer playing hours logged as a

Although this is their eighth album it is the first to
consist entirely of originals - suitable considering their
last record For All I Care consisted entirely of covers,
after mixing the two liberally in earlier releases. Their
previous compositions have always been complicated
beasts that twist and turn without notice and make full
use of their instruments’ potential. This record is no

“The Radio Tower Has a Beating Heart” opens the
album with a cacophonous rattle, which veers wildly
through shimmering levels of noise - at times it sounds
like the band may be playing with axes rather than
their arms - before finding a pneumatic pulse courtesy
of Anderson’s bass. The title track is almost straight
pop with a minimalist quarter-note piano line that
slowly turns over on itself until some disco hi-hat
relieves it of its metronomic universe. Head-turning
bass and piano unisons, something of a specialty with
these guys, boil under Iverson’s right hand on “You
Are” and the pummeling “My Friend Metatron” with
impressive precision.

Midway through the record “People Like You”
slows the band down for a very straightforward ballad,
guided by brushes and a simplistic left-hand piano
part that crescendos over nine patient minutes. “Beryl
Loves to Dance” gets things as funky as they can get
with King riding the bell of his cymbal while all hell
breaks loose on the piano.

The first real bass solo occurs during “Snowball”,
wherein Anderson takes a wistful approach to lull the
listener before “2 P.M.” explodes into a lurching
bombast that uses every key on the piano at least twice.
“Bill Hickman At Home” and “Super America” close
out the record, evoking Randy Newman and Cecil
Taylor at the same time. The former finds Anderson
providing a Scott LaFaro-esque bass solo before
Iverson contributes a drunken honky-tonk stroll while
the latter is a hand-clap revival with a boogie bassline
that quickly closes out the album.

Never Stop is a powerful statement from the band.
Shorn of their clever covers they prove that their only
gimmick is camaraderie, brewed in the Midwest but
earned over an attentive decade on stages and in the
studio. The sky is the limit for their telepathic

Bad Plus @ New York City Jazz Record

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