July 3, 2007

The Bad Plus: Breaking Out of the Jazz Mold

Our good friend Neddy likes good music, and he wants you good folks to like good music as well. So listen to him when he preachifies about The Bad Plus.

I’ve run out of fingers counting the number of times I’ve seen The Bad Plus in the last few years, and I don’t have enough toes to count the ways in which they continue to diverge from the prototypical jazz trio. What’s left to say? And yet, each viewing brings new wrinkles and reaffirmations: They’re just really, really good.


This time around, the first twist was that they’d left the Village Vanguard and the other jazz clubs of Manhattan behind and took their act to a rock club, the Highline Ballroom, which got all dressed up like a big ol’ jazz hall. I’ve never been to the room before Saturday night and was impressed with the combination of coziness and comfort, the sight-lines and just about everything else besides the drink prices. Even though they had tables set up from front to back and forced a drink minimum on everyone, it still felt more like a rock club and one to which I’m looking forward to returning.

The Bad Plus came out nearly right on the dot of the scheduled start time of 8 pm and wasted no time getting their Bad-Plussiness on. The first tune, later identified as the new Blue Candy, felt almost like a warm-up than a typical TBP composition. It started out mercilessly slow and languid, without too much melodic form or anything else to grab onto; it almost felt like pure improv, actually.

A minute later, it zigged then zagged and all of the sudden it was too fast, like a roller coaster cresting over the initial ascent. I should have known it was a Dave King tune, the drummer whose compositions increasingly experiment with rhythmic structure — experiments whose goal seems to be the experimentation itself, like a warped kid discovering how many different ways they can kill bugs.

Read on for more of Neddy’s fanboy review of the Bad Plus at Highline…

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