The Bad Plus – the nuevo-jazz trio of uber-improvisers – rolled into Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center on a recent laid-back, sleepy Thursday night, touring in support of their latest album “Never Stop.” But the threesome could have awakened the dead with the urgent, dynamic onslaught of their power-laden musical excursions into jazz’s outer limits.
Starting their 90-minute-plus set with “Variation d’Apollon” (their own unique spin on Stravinsky’s “Apollo,” complete with toy noisemakers), the Bad Plus locked into an intense, spellbinding groove as they mixed classical, funk, straight-ahead jazz and pop riffs into a tapestry of musical nirvana. They showcased plenty of their original compositions, ranging from “Keep the Bugs Off Your Glass and the Bears Off Your Ass,” “The Empire Strikes Backwards” and “And Here We Test Our Powers Of Observation.” All were as entertaining and inventive as the titles, and all were gems delivered with a stonecutter’s precision.
Drummer Dave King kept everything intense and tight with his ever-evolving polyrhythms on the skins, while Reid Anderson pulled, plucked and beat the hell out of his bass string. Pianist Ethan Iverson filled in the blanks with notes that chased each other and once they caught each other made, as Chef from “South Park” used to say, “sweet love” to each other.
The Bad Plus falls into the category of new piano-powered trios – somewhere between the intellectual approach of Medeski, Martin & Wood and the funky rockin’ vibe of Soulive. In other words, they ain’t your dad’s traditional piano trio churning out the old, tried ‘n’ true jazz standards. They’re continually breaking new ground and pushing the envelope of what modern jazz is – and could be – in the 21st century.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Josh Potter’s review at Metroland