The Bad Plus
Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., March 28, 2003
The Bad PlusThese Are the Vistas (Columbia)
Like a shot out of the blue, this debut from a trio of unknown Midwesterners has caused the jazz community to sit up and take note. Working within the confines of a traditional piano trio, the Bad Plus plies a refreshingly playful, forcefully dynamic, and knowingly irreverent sensibility that stretches the boundaries of the format without dislodging the music from its foundation. It's an attitude more than anything else, and a much-needed antidote to the academic stodginess and neo-conservative hindsight that so often plagues "America's classical music." Case in point is a jazz rendition of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," which stays true to tradition while shattering the orthodoxy of both musical genres. On this and other tunes, like the original "1972 Bronze Medalist," pianist Ethan Iverson uses his left hand to create thundering mounds of tension that augment the roiling undercurrents of bassist Eric Anderson and drummer David King. These are the moments when the group comes closest to doffing the niceties of jazz and expanding its horizons. There are also passages of soothing tranquility, as on "Everywhere You Turn" and the album's closer, "Silence Is the Question," both of which balance the turbulence and provide some space to breathe. If jazz is going to attract a younger, wider audience, bands like the Bad Plus are the ones to do it.