Show Review: The Bad Plus
  • WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24, 2007

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Today's blog was written by BaebleBlog's most active freelancer, Bryan "Thundergod" Sargent. Mister Sarge's birthday is this week, and he celebrated by visiting the jazz-lovin' Village Vanguard to catch The Bad Plus in action. Happy birthday to Sarge, and happy reading to everyone else.


The Bad Plus: Live at the Village Vanguard, 1/23/07

Five years ago, The Bad Plus entered the hallowed halls of New York City’s Village Vanguard to the dismay of many jazz purists. Columbia Records, however, was not dissuaded by the group’s genre-crossing swagger. The label signed The Bad Plus to a record contract, and many more have taken notice since then. Last night, The Bad Plus started a six night engagement at the Vanguard, and much like that first appearance, this was not for jazz traditionalists. The Midwest trio, while heavily grounded in post-bop jazz, also adds elements of four-to-the-floor rock and groove-oriented rhythms.

The band’s look was just as varied as the eclectic mix of audience members in attendance. Pianist Ethan Iverson donned a dapper three piece suit, bassist Reid Anderson went for the jeans and t-shirt approach, and drummer David King - complete with tattoos - sported a vintage Western shirt, looking like something out of a classic post-punk band.

The opening song, “Mint,” set the tone for the intense yet playful set that everyone was about to experience. Iverson and Anderson laid down a beautiful melody while King attacked the drums with bomb blasts and cymbal crashes, even pulling out a baby toy to add a little color during the song. After two Anderson-penned pieces followed, the band proceeded with their first and only cover of the evening.

Known for their amazing interpretations of “unexpected” songs such as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Aphex Twin’s “Flim,” The Bad Plus did not disappoint, laying down a haunting version of the Bee Gee’s “How Deep Is Your Love” which led to a dry apology by Iverson for its somber tone. The rest of the show included originals, only one of which appeared on record - “Dirty Blonde,” from their 2004 Tchad Blake-produced album, Give.

The set concluded with the song “Physical Cities.” At its core, it’s a straight-up rock song, wavering between rhythmic feels and finishing off with an impressive staccato assault of piano, bass and drums, all played in unison.

The Bad Plus’ energy, intensity, and sense of humor are infectious, allowing the band to play anywhere from prestigious jazz clubs to massive festivals like Bonnaroo. Bands like this may be a nightmare to purists and traditionalists across genres, but to adventurous music fans, The Bad Plus are absolutely essential.

- Bryan Sargent

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