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Review: The Bad Plus at The Jazz Kitchen

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The Bad Plus
The Jazz Kitchen
Wednesday, May 2

There's definitely a jazz ballast to what The Bad Plus do. But there are also many outside influences to the trio's sound, and even countenance.

For Wednesday's two-show appearance at The Jazz Kitchen, pianist Ethan Iverson was dressed in a suit and tie. Bassist Reid Anderson at least wore a buttoned-up shirt. But drummer Dave King had on a tattered Chicago Blackhawks tee, perhaps to offer a better view of his myriad tattoos.

It seemed the perfect visage for their music. Their performance of "And Here We Test Our Powers of Observation," from the album Give, is a great example of The Bad Plus' formula. Iverson's cocktail-piano twinkling butts heads with a chameleonic rhythm section so unfettered that eventually it succumbs to the chaos.

The packed room got an extra treat, at least in the first show, when the Minneapolis trio performed several tracks from their forthcoming album Made Possible. Those proved that 12 years and eight albums in, they haven't lost their creative power.

"Pound for Pound" evolved in volume and intensity, climaxing in an eloquent racket before returning to its start. The faster, skittering "Who's He" featured sinuous bass and a lot of cymbal and tom action by King. He really showed his chops on "2pm," a new composition dedicated to the late jazz drummer Paul Motian. King played three solos that each utilized different sections of his kit.

There's proof galore that, despite their immense talent, The Bad Plus aren't taking themselves too seriously. Anderson did the introductions, with everyone offering a snippet of improvised music after each name was announced. He also waxed poetic on odd subjects like touring with E.T. (the rider for Reese's Pieces is ridiculous) and assuring that playing the disjointed new song "Wolf Out" will prevent you from being attacked by such beasts.

They even got avant-garde on "Sing for a Silver Dollar." Pretty, yet polarizing, thanks to King's cavernous drumming. They abruptly stopped in the middle to spend several minutes rubbing and plucking their instruments to conjure ominous sounds, eventually eliciting nervous laughter from the audience before launching into a kick-ass close.

There's nothing staid about The Bad Plus. They play their jazz like rock. No wonder they're embraced in both realms.

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