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Jazz - Released March 25, 2014 | Masterworks

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Those familiar with the Bad Plus know that part of the group's aesthetic is to extend the context and reach of jazz as popular music. Earlier recordings have delivered provocative original compositions alongside standards, modern pop songs and jazz tunes. This album-length performance of Igor Stravinsky's iconic Rite of Spring extends their ouevre with a disciplined twist. Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer Dave King have pared his score to its essentials and play the entire work. It has been honed for recording after over 30 live performances. The trio has taken its dense themes, tempos, tones, dissonant harmonics and timbres, and attempted to perform it whole as straight as possible -- without jazz improvisation, which doesn;t mean there isn't room for interpetive license. King is allowed the most interpretive leeway because Stravinsky didn't write for a drum kit. The century-old Rite of Spring is infamously known as an orchestral ballet that inspired a riot during its debut in Paris. Though it does commence irreverently with the electronic sound of a human heartbeat (and Anderson adds other ambient sonics throughout its first movement), the score remains the focus of the playing. Iverson sticks closely to the melodies, deftly playing different ones on each hand. He makes his way through the various themes with requisite force. Anderson's glorious pizzicato playing asserts itself in earnest in the last half of "Adoration of the Earth: The Augurs of Spring." It acts as a primary melodic instrument that plays counterpoint and executes other melodic tasks. The dazzling dance between the pianist and bassist becomes intimate and frenetic in "Ritual of Abduction," while King provides another dynamic dimension in embellishing his lower drums with snare-cymbal fills. His playing on "The Sage/Dance of the Earth" underscores the dance-like element with a brief circular rhythm as Anderson strides out of Iverson's execution of extended harmonies. The second part, "The Sacrifice: Introduction," commences on nearly mystical terms, holding the drama close and taut. Fierce percussive interludes and pulsing dissonances are rampant in "Glorification of the Chosen One." "The Sacrifice: Evocation of the Ancestors/Ritual Action of the Ancestors" offers ringing chords, rolling tom-toms, and an inquisitive, time-stretching bassline. Iverson's piano goes inside two melodies, drawing them out purposefully and passionately. King ramps up the tension to almost unbearable intensity until Anderson joins him and it explodes. In the final movement, Iverson's personally held assertion that Stravinsky was the father of prog rock is evidenced by shifting time signatures and emphatic chordal/melodic pulse sequences that seemingly contradict one another but don't. The Bad Plus' Rite of Spring is an incendiary yet deeply faithful interpretation that should be listened to by classical audiences as well as jazz fans. That this trio interprets such a difficult work with this degree of faithfulness is remarkable; that they do so without sacrificing their personality in the process is worth celebrating. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released October 25, 2019 | Edition Records

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It's not generally a good sign when the central figure in a group jumps overboard but the ship keeps sailing on. But the departure of pianist Ethan Iverson from The Bad Plus didn't stop his bandmates Reid Anderson and David King from continuing their own adventure. Since 2018, the double bassist and drummer have been teamed up with Orrin Evans. At 44 years old, this former student of Kenny Barron and Joanne Brackeen (and frontman on over 20 albums) is no novice – although his fame only extends within a select circle. The piano-based identity of this Philadelphia musician is so strong that he feels no need to "replace" Iverson, but rather to write a new chapter with Anderson and King. The Bad Plus, version 2.0, have made a groundbreaking new album with the UK label Edition Records. Throughout Activate Infinity, Orrin Evans brings a new roundedness, different from that of his predecessor; but in a fraction of a second he can also dive into more avant-garde improvisations. Above all, he has found the balance between remaining himself and blending in with the rhythms of Reid Anderson and David King. In short: the saga continues… © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released February 11, 2003 | Columbia

Whether or not pianist Ethan Iverson is literally using it, all of the Bad Plus' These Are The Vistas sounds as if it was recorded with the sustain pedal of the piano depressed. It's actually probably mostly the fault of producer Tchad Blake (Soul Coughing, Cibo Matto, Los Lobos), who applies his incredible treatments throughout the album, shining through especially in his work on David King's chaotic drums. Nonetheless, the Bad Plus sound as if they are in a cavernous space. The band rolls out the now-requisite jazz covers of pop tunes (in this case, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Blondie's "Heart of Glass," and Aphex Twin's "Flim"), but it is their attitude (the very fact that they hired Blake to begin with, for example) that carries them the distance. The band itself is quite compelling. Iverson is a complex piano player. His skills come to bear on the abstract epic "Silence Is The Question," which closes the album, as his spidery piano lines melt into chaotic statements, left hand meeting subtly with bassist Reid Anderson, right hand meeting crazily with King. What is impressive is that the trio manages to sound contemporary using only piano, bass, and drums, and without resorting to electronic gimmicks. Whether or not the band is reinventing jazz is irrelevant. These Are The Vistas is good, interesting music. ~ Jesse Jarnow
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Jazz - Released August 21, 2019 | Edition Records

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The first album from the Bad Plus since Orrin Evans took over the piano chair from departing co-founder Ethan Iverson, 2017's Never Stop II is a focused, atmospheric set of all-original songs. Technically, the album is a follow-up to the band's first album of all-original material, 2010's Never Stop. However, with Evans on board, the album primarily works as a debut for the trio. That said, Evans fits in nicely with bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King, and the band sounds both fresh and familiar. For Evans' part, he brings over 20 years of experience and deep post-bop chops to the trio. Nonetheless, these songs retain the trio's immediately recognizable style, rife with spare melodies, off-kilter rhythms, and subtle, genre-bending aesthetics. Much of that has to do with Anderson and King, who continue to play in their distinctively minimalist fashion, boiling various jazz, rock, and funk rhythms down to their core elements. What's particularly compelling is how the trio sets up each song with its deft, Spartan touch, and then launches into more loose, improvisatory midsections that allow for intense group interplay and harmonic asides. Tracks like "Hurricane Birds," with its minor-key theme, roiling time signature, and skittering, jungle-influenced beat, could easily be a cover of a Radiohead song (something the band has literally done in the past). Similarly, the brightly attenuated "Safe Passage," with its ringing eighth-note opening statement, sounds enticingly like something the late Peanuts pianist Vince Guaraldi might have done if he had had the chance to cover a Lauryn Hill song. Elsewhere, the trio brings out yet more of its nuanced influences, splitting the difference between pulsing modern jazz and melodic, Beatlesque pop on "1983 Regional All-Star" and diving headlong into the angular, Thelonious Monk-does-punk of "Lean in the Archway." There are also several harmonically enveloping numbers such as the wavelike, McCoy Tyner-influenced "Boffadem" and the delicate, sweetly enveloping ballad "Kerosene II." ~ Matt Collar
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Jazz - Released May 17, 2005 | Columbia

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Jazz - Released August 26, 2016 | Okeh - Sony Masterworks

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For longtime fans of genre-bending jazz piano trio the Bad Plus, 2016's It's Hard will feel pleasantly familiar. Once again showcasing the talents of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer David King, It's Hard finds the Bad Plus reworking a set of well-curated pop covers. In that sense, the album fits nicely next to the group's previous covers albums, all of which helped build their reputation as a maverick, forward-thinking outfit unafraid to recontextualize both modern pop songs and traditional acoustic jazz. Particularly effective here is the trio's languid, impressionistic take on Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over." Played as a slow, yearning ballad, it brings to mind Keith Jarrett's fractured, atmospheric flow. Elsewhere, they imbue Peter Gabriel's "Games Without Frontiers" with Thelonious Monk-like dissonance, and dive headlong into Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps," transforming the indie rock anthem into a tumbling avant-garde, Broadway musical-esque theme. The one shift this time out is the inclusion of two jazz cover songs in saxophonist Bill McHenry's "Alfombra Magica" and the late Ornette Coleman's "Broken Shadows." While those two choices sound of a piece with the rest of the performances on It's Hard, they stand out for their specific, avant-garde jazz origins and work in contrast to the rest of the more contemporary pop choices. It's as if the Bad Plus are demonstrating their longstanding belief that all good music can be interpreted in a jazz style, whether it's Prince's "The Beautiful Ones," Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," or Kraftwerk's "The Robots," all of which are elegantly tackled here. Ultimately with It's Hard, the Bad Plus continue to make the process of transforming modern pop songs into jazz standards sound both deceptively easy and endlessly enjoyable. ~ Matt Collar
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Jazz - Released August 5, 2016 | Okeh

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Jazz - Released August 22, 2014 | Okeh - Sony Masterworks

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It's in the opening moments of "I Hear You," the first track on Inevitable Western: the mercurial, mysterious, yet utterly musical sense of adventure that lies at the heart of the Bad Plus' sound. After recording the rigorous, mathematically challenging score for Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring -- released only six months prior to this -- one can almost hear relief in the trio's return to its own universe. These nine tracks are equally divided compositionally among bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson, and drummer Dave King. The bassist's aforementioned opener is a seemingly simple lyric stated by the piano but given a slightly quirky yet nearly processional tilt in its meter as Anderson illustrates the time as the drummer's syncopated accents add drama and humor. King's "God Prisms Incorporated" is a marvelous cut-time jazz illustration of post-rock song form. Iverson's pulsing chord statement rides atop the minimal melody, offset by the rhythm section's inventive interplay. A piano solo commences halfway through, stretching the notion of time, though the tune never quite abandons its interlocking grooves. Iverson's "Self Serve" is a knotty, almost swinging post-bop tune, with gorgeous harmonic statements by Anderson. The mutant classicism in the bassist's "You Will Lose All Fear" feels like it was simultaneously influenced by both Charles Ives and Aaron Copland. Iverson's solo, full of bright arpeggios and forceful dynamic chords, is adorned by King's hyperactive rolls and fills. The set's longest piece is the drummer's "Adopted Highway." Introduced by a shimmering crash cymbal and a single piano chord, all three members engage in measured, dissonant stop-and-start counterpoint. Iverson rumbles along the lower and middle registers as Anderson's pizzicato lines exhort King to use his brushes aggressively in response. The tune unfolds very gradually, as free-flowing improvisation alternates with intricately written lines, building to a taut climax before gradually whispering to a close. Iverson's "Mr. Now" is almost funky in its intro. His sharp, labyrinthine head is offered in short statements with King playing double time and Anderson holding the center. It becomes a meaty, hard-driving exercise in modern post-bop, as all three members engage in spirited dialogue. King delivers a bracing solo in the final third. The closing title number, by the pianist, seamlessly melds jazz, classical, blues, modal, and great American saloon-style music in dexterous and lyrical phrases and rhythmic frames. Inevitable Western is a reminder that the Bad Plus are not a "piano trio" in any ordinary sense of the term, but a unit of strikingly different voices acting as one in expanding the boundaries of jazz. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released September 25, 2012 | eOne Music

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Jazz - Released February 24, 2004 | Columbia

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2005 | Columbia

Postmodern jazz trio the Bad Plus has caused a fair amount of debate in the jazz world with their mixture of post-bop vocabulary, rock-influenced feel, and D.I.Y. attitude. SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY?--the band's third album--is unlikely to settle any of those debates. With their funky, deconstructionist cover of Vangelis's "(Theme from) Chariots of Fire" and their shape-shifting originals, the Bad Plus are full of surprises. The band excels equally at driving compositions ("Anthem for the Earnest") that draw on the punchy, bass-fueled energy of rock, and off-kilter lyricism like the jittery, poetic "Knows the Difference." Drummer David King plays like a cross between Elvin Jones and John Bonham, while pianist Ethan Iverson sweeps all over the keyboard with classical flourishes and punk aggression. Whether or not the Bad Plus fit your idea of jazz, SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY? is an intriguing listen.
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Jazz - Released September 6, 2019 | Edition Records

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Jazz - Released September 14, 2010 | eOne Music

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R&B/Soul - Released July 15, 2016 | Okeh

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Jazz - Released April 12, 2005 | Columbia

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