Category Archives: Uncategorized

Shamie Royston Beautiful Liar (Sunnyside)

On the front cover of 2012’s ‘Portraits,’ Shamie Royston peers through a sheer curtain, as if watching an event from afar. Kinda makes sense. The skilled pianist is recognized as an educator as much as she is a bandleader. A Colorado native who enjoyed regional acclaim on the Denver scene before moving East as her opportunities (as well as those of her husband Rudy Royston) broadened, her name recognition isn’t commensurate with her broad range of skills. That might change. ‘Beautiful Liar”s liner photo finds her front and center, ready for her close-up, and the music itself parallels that stance. Mainstream post-bop with thoughtful interaction and a deep sense of poise, it swings hard and breathes easy.

An indication of her quintet’s confidence marks the aptly titled “Push.” The group’s volition is front and center, with the rhythm section igniting audacious solos from trumpeter Josh Evans, saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, and the pianist herself. Like the best moments by Wynton Marsalis’s early fivesome, it’s a parade of pithy broadcasts with a devotion to standard structural templates and consummate legibility – a fierce mix when done right. Similar aggression marks “Dissimulate,” except the groove on the latter boasts a more jovial vibe, with hints of horn polyphony frothing above a wisely punctuated bottom.

A yin/yang POV boosts the program’s breadth. Turns out Royston waxes soothing as convincingly as she throws punches.  There’s a spirited calm to the design of “Precious Lullaby,” a pastoral vibe to the cascading horn lines of ‘Uplifted Heart” and a balm to the band’s update of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.” There’s a bit of church in her soul stance as well, and those bluesy intimations, along with a dash of simmering fervor, boosts her ballad game. Whether waxing gentle or stormy, bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Royston shift gears with a supple coordination that gives the leader’s pieces the oomph they deserve to have a shot at becoming memorable.

DownBeat

Whitehead on Beautiful Liar

Advertisements

Happy Sun Ra Earth Arrival Day. Go see the Arkestra at Iridium on the 30th

It was a fun night in Newport’s Blue Pelican in ’86, and yes, June and the gents tore shit up that night. Piano was in tune, too!

The great one arrived in Alabama a century or so ago, and though he left the planet in ’93, his spectacular music is still getting mucho play from his feisty lieutenant, Marshall Allen, and the revolving door of musicians who populate the Arkestra on any given night. They know all about the idiosyncratic nature of swing and still have a grand time exploding standards, waxing theatrical, and proving camaraderie can carry the day.  They’re at Iridium on May 30.

Five Must-See Shows: 2018 Vision Festival

It’s Vision Fest time. You know the deal. A week-long throwdown that touts a vibe of committed inquiry in the name of free-wheelin’ improv, celebrating musicians who forego established rules whenever it seems wise, and forge a personalized trajectory at all costs. Its 2018 home is Roulette, a smart choice for congregating and a great room to see shows. Get your tickets NOW. There’s an abundance of action, so here are five key gigs to get you started.

Archie Shepp / Dave Burrell / William Parker / Hamid Drake

It’s living music of course, but for me a bit of nostalgia plays into the seeing these two veterans shoulder to shoulder again.  Pieces such as Lybia‘s title track and A Sea of Faces“Hipnosis” made me swoon when I was initially falling for jazz. Burrell, who receives a lifetime achievement nod by the fest this year, is a gloriously fluid player, but he has two or three drummers in his left hand when need be, and both of the above tracks from the ’70s remind how punchy and buoyant a performance can be when the pianist and saxophonist connect.

 

Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl

There’s no lack of buzz around this new outfit, which puts vocalist Amirtha Kidambi in the mix, singing lyrics penned by the leader. Tracks from their new double CD such as “Thunderhead” and “Drop the Need” remind listeners that Halvorson’s omni aesthetic is driven by an ever-morphing approach – she chases what she hears and she hears a lot. Rigor and grace mark the experimentation; poise and editing keeps abstraction on its best behavior. The addition of Ambrose Akinmusire’s poetic trumpet lines make the collective swirl that much richer, and warmer, too.  They’ve been gigging, so coherence ain’t gonna be a prob.

 

Nasheet Waits’ Equality

From Nothingness To Infinity still gets a fair amount of spin time at my place, but it’s onstage where these four freebop experts (Mark Helias, Darius Jones and Aruán Ortiz join the drummer this time ’round) are most engaging, because watching the reactions between them can be riveting. A gambit is made, a countermove suddenly appears. Accents beget mood shifts; declarations emerge and evaporate. And when the boss decides it’s time to swing a bit, the whole room turns sideways.

 

Gerald Cleaver / Chris Potter / Brandon Lopez/ David Virelles

This group has been figuring itself out for a few years now, but one trait has defined them from the get-go: fluid punch. Chris is a thriller, his horn lines teeming with an ardor and equilibrium that makes his wildest passages present themselves with a deep clarity.  And the way that drummer Cleaver connects the dots with pianist Virelles boasts the kind of pliability that takes nuggets like Monk’s “Work” to the kind of joyously eloquent spot you’re always looking for.

 

Jaimie Branch Fly or Die

Been driving in the car this week listening to a cassette of Kudu, Branch’s sprawling electronics/brass/percussion venture by the Anteloper duo (Little Women’s Jason Nazary is her partner), and even as the spacy extrapolations spill forward, I’m reminded that the most seductive aspect of the trumpeter’s 2017 bass/cello/drums opus was its sharp design sense. Regardless how extended a passage she navigates, she has an editor’s sense of when to move into the next chapter. Chad Taylor drives the action here, and there’s no lack of liftoff as cellist Lester St. Louis and bassist Anton Hatwich, bubble along.

Vision Fest goes through next Monday, and btw…I’d also keep a sharp eye on a world premiere by Matthew Shipp’s Acoustic Ensemble; the Akinmusire/Davis/Sorey trio; Mutations for Justice; Oliver Lake Big Band. Full schedule here.

 

 

Broken Shadows Salute Team Ornette at Jazz Standard

They know each other, so the chemistry is cool. They know the music, so the connection is deep. They’ve been cranking their inspired repertory program for a minute now, so all the tumblers are aligned. The last time I saw Broken Shadows (Dave King, Chris Speed, Reid Anderson, Tim Berne) addressing their book of pieces culled from lengthy visits to Ornetteworld (time well-spent on the Dewey tilt-a-whirl and long glides through Charlie’s tunnel of love), the music’s glee and mystery were delivered in equal doses. Let’s see…the heartbreak that OC wrote into their signature piece and the way the bloodcount buds twirled around each other while rendering it; the sustained buoyancy of the rhythm section and the way they conjured the act of floating (raise the bandstand, indeed) – lots of vivid images remain from a recent Brooklyn gig. Their two-night stand at the Jazz Standard will put their skills up front, but bring a larger lesson to the fore as well: building a book of these nuggets is an action of preservation and pride, a chance to tout the rigors of a wildly entertaining canon that could use a bit more sunlight than it usually gets, no matter how much lip service is given to the masters who birthed it. Special treat? The band’s jaunt through Julius Hemphill’s “Body,” from Flat-Out Jump Suite (Black Saint). Ornette’s Fort Worth homie is a Berne touchstone, and the easy-going squall of the quartet’s update reminds that the blues always has a physical side. Ear of the behearer, right?

Jazz Standard

116 E 27th Street

Shows at 7:30 + 9:30

(212) 576-2232

 

 

Jakob Bro Returnings (ECM)

The gentle thrill of a single note richly rendered has been key to Jakob Bro’s work for years now. The Danish guitarist appreciates clarity and its accompanying candor, and in keeping his music on the dreamy side, he clears a path toward the kind of interplay that sniffs around for the hidden advantages of consonance. This can be a risky business. His last two trio discs traded engagement and expression for prettiness and precision; the resultant fantasias, often bittersweet and occasionally forlorn, scanned as benign. This new quartet date improves on that. The 40-year-old leader fancies textures as well, and with the addition of Palle Mikkelborg’s trumpet and flugelhorn to his band, there’s a welcome new tension in play.

The veteran brass player boosts the emotional resonance of Bro’s pieces, providing crisp surges of energy to the music’s bedrock delicacy. Bro’s ballads have a folkish esprit – a trait that often causes his name to be mentioned alongside that of Bill Frisell, with whom he’s collaborated – and its ghostly essence has a tendency to dissipate quickly. Whether his instrument is muted or not, Mikkelborg’s piercing lyricism on “Lyskaster,” “Oktober” and “Youth” in particular, brings sustenance to the table. Flexing abstractions along the way, the music doesn’t abandon the dreamlike quality of Bro’s previous outings, but its foreground is a bit more fetching.

The rhythm section’s agility paves the way for all these graceful maneuvers. Drummer Jon Christensen and bassist Thomas Morgan stress pliability and detail, even when they’re at their stormiest on “Returnings.” Uniting to render Bro’s vision of ethereal elaboration, this particular foursome puts a little more clout in the mix.

DownBeat

DownBeat.com

ECM

Must-Hear Jazz Records – 2017

Here’s what I submitted for the NPR Jazz Critics poll. Plus a few key items below. Thanks to Francis Davis and Tom Hull for all the work they put in coordinating the results. Here are all the voters’ ballots

Best New Releases

Tom Rainey Obbligato  –  Float Upstream  (Intakt) 

Team Rainey puts on their inversion boots and provides sage abstractions that deliver a melodic punch line after revealing a song’s amorphous innards. From “Stella By Starlight” to “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” there’s nothing standard about these standards.

Mario Pavone’s Dialect Trio  –  Chrome   (Playscape) 

You can call it attack or volition or plain old oomph. But the authority brought to bear by the bassist’s squad – Tyshawn Sorey and Matt Mitchell – gives these skittish freebop sketches an architecture that blends splash and swing. Those currently falling for the pianist and drummer def need to hear this.

Billy Mintz  – Ugly Beautiful  (Thirteenth Note)

The roiling of the two-reed front line – sometimes gentle, always graceful – gives this set a feel akin to an ocean voyage: the motion never subsides. The drummer’s pairing of John Gross and Tony Malaby speaks to an approach that Joe Morris knowingly once deemed the “wraparound.” Total teamwork.

Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt   (Palmetto)

As far as poetry/music discs go, it’s right up there with Conjure – and that’s saying a lot. Sandburg’s humor snuggles with the bandleader’s versatility, so each track resounds with individuality.  Flash points: Ron Miles’ forlorn horn on “As Wave Follows Wave”; the band’s cartoon jaunt matching John Scofield’s gorilla talk; the Ornette farewell of “Stars, Songs, Faces”; Joe Lovano’s “are you a writer or a wrapper?”; and the hard-earned philosophy in Carla Bley’s voice when she says the phrase “nearly always.” Re: politics, when “Choose” comes marching out of your speakers, you’ll get a vibe for the inclusionary efforts we all must make to have our cracked country function again. Fellowship, indeed.

Nicole Mitchell – Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds   (FPE) 

Creating your own universe is an AACM dictum that’s in good hands with Mitchell’s expansive suite. It’s impossible to focus on anything but the thrust of the near-symphonic details once her narrative hits lift-off mode – which doesn’t take long.

Kirk KnuffkeCherryco   (Steeplechase)

He starts in the Caribbean, drops by Central Ave, nods to Paris, and manages to squeak in a bit of Fort Worth everywhere he goes. Throughout, the NYC brass maestro’s insightful lyricism is the bedrock for this Don Cherry (and Ornette Coleman) salute. Nimble, buoyant, gorgeous.

 

Virtuosity in effect. Scholarship, as well, because the pianist sheds new light on a handful of tumultuous pieces his Snakeoil boss has crafted. Elaboration, momentum and intricacy are Berne essentials – the DNA that forms the essence of any given TB piece. His confrere has absorbed all those elements, and brings a ton of warmth to this recital.
The bassist is on a roll. His last three albums have been jewels, full of vista-scanning possibilities and fierce accord. The band is so locked-in on this thing, that the music waves a banner of unity at every turn. Skronk, groove, tunefulness, the works.
It finds the bassist helming a pair of bands and deploying a wealth of gambits. For a few reasons – the legibility of the tunes, say, or the eloquence of he and his confreres – this is one of his most entertaining discs. With Rob Brown and Cooper-Moore goosing the action, it takes on a gloriously gnarled articulation, like the best Black Saint releases used to.
The pianist has plotted particular ways for the horns to reside in his music, supercharging his esteemed trio and creating a launch pad for the unabashed vigor that marks the solos by Steve Lehman, Graham Haynes and Mark Shim.

Historical Releases 

Picnic  –  Picnic  (Corbett vs Dempsey)

Phillip Wilson – Esoteric  (Corbett vs Dempsey)

Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960   (Sam Records)

Latin 

Aruan Ortiz  –  Cub(an)ism     (Intakt)

Vocal 

Dominique Eade &  Ran Blake  –  Town & Country   (Sunnyside)

Debut 

Jaimie BranchFly or Die (International Anthem Recording Co.)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 Top Tracks

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil – “Sideshow”

Expanse is part of his compositional lingo, and this almost-30-minute-long opus finds the quintet (plus producer/guitarist David Torn) scrutinizing delirium and repose in equal measure. For some bandleaders this track could be an album on its own. The impressive Incidentals (ECM) is rounded out by a wealth of tangled fancies that really pack a punch.

 

Jason Moran – “South Side Digging”

Wow. In some ways, just wow. To be a smidge more articulate, consider the depth of vision that’s behind this jitter-swang tour de force on the Bandwagon’s Thanksgiving at The Vanguard and revel in the coordination it takes to turn a barrage of keys into a storm of eloquence. Chicago in the blood, and blues all over the road.

Marta Sanchez – “Danza Imposible”

The title track from the pianist’s best album yet is a swirl of action (horns and rhythm) that unites poise and pulse. It’s lustful, it’s heady, it’s cagey, and it’s seductive. Her CD-release show at the Jazz Gallery (you should become a member this year) was just as engaging.

 

Steve Coleman’s Natal Eclipse – “Horda”

The closing track to the saxophonist’s Morphogenesis (Pi) is a lesson in percolating action. The piece that comes before it is entitled “Dancing and Jabbing,” but that’s what truly happens on “Horda”: everything pops, but with a composure so assured it almost brings a chamber music vibe to the table.

 

Kate Gentile – “Micronesia Parakeet”

There’s something unusually wily about the way the drummer/composer has her outfit morph this fetching experiment from Mannequins (Skirl), forming an arc that starts with an aggressive Andrew Hill reverie and winds up with a dreamy Muhal phantasy. Nuanced, covert and impressive, its dedication to cracked-up counterpoint has a lot to do with its success.

 

Craig Taborn – “Subtle Living Equations”

It begins as a stark sketch, initially cryptic and compelling so. But as the negative space is filled in, propulsion emerges. By the end, it’s simply a glistening ring of drummed notes reveling in its own mystery. The more you hear it, the more you want to hear it again.

 

Do Not Miss

Mike Reed, Flesh & Bone (482 Music); Tyshawn Sorey, Verisamilitude (P1); Amir ElSaffar & Rivers of Sound, Not Two (New Amsterdam); JD Allen, Radio Flyer (Savant); Ambrose Akinmusire, A Rift In Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note); David Virelles, Gnosis (ECM)

 

 

 

The Bad Plus: Exit Music for a Pianist

I believe the first time I saw The Bad Plus was in the Knit’s Old Office, and the one image I recall is Ethan Iverson, during a moody romp through “Heart of Gold,” taking Neil Young’s lyrics at their functional best, and repeating the “keeps me searchin'” phrase on the piano enough times to underscore one of the trio’s aesthetic mandates: press on until a new way of shaping the music has been achieved. I’m recalling (hazy, hazy) that the trio hummed the tune and sang a snatch of lyric, and in a theatrical move that echoed Han Bennink’s occasional stage hijinks, Iverson visually investigated his instrument’s innards, pedals, and the floor area surrounding him – on the hunt for some ineffable essence, no doubt. Grins abounded in the audience because the music was as incisive as the group’s frolic was wry. Only one possible takeaway: This is gonna be a fun band.

They have been. And they are. But now Iverson’s leaving and Orrin Evans is stepping in. That’s gonna be fun, too. But as TBP closes 2017 at the Vanguard this week, I thought I would gather all the Voice blabs I wrote about their NYC gigs (along with a couple record reviews and EI trio hits) as a salute. Bet they tear the place up. Kisses to Ethan. Go get ’em, Orrin.

The Bad Plus
The trio did mucho damage at the Blue Note back in the fall, Dave King’s drums causing landslides, Reid Anderson’s tunes erecting labyrinths, Ethan Iverson’s piano precision boggling minds. Their pop tune fetish can be cutesy or cool – it depends on the tune chosen and the vibe conjured. I’ll take more Bee Gees, less Rush, and pray they hit overdrive on “Layin’ a Strip for the Higher-Self State Line.”

Village Vanguard. Wednesday, 24 – Sunday, 28.

 

The Bad Plus + Craig Taborn

The Bad boys court controversy because they mess with the jazz norm. Not just in choice of pop repertoire, which stretches from “Heart of Glass” to “Heart of Gold,” but by ramrodding rock rhythms into a piano trio improv process that swings even when it doesn’t. Their new Give has a noir side. Taborn is one of the local jazz scene’s best-prepared keyb experimentalists.

Bowery Ballroom. Thursday, 25.

 

The Bad Plus

Yup, their imploding-pop-tunes shtick is always front and center. But their knowing group interplay is always right there with it, and after three years of steady work, that shit is deep. If the stars align, they will mow you down.
Iridium, 1650 Bway, 212-582-2121.  Wed & Thu 8 & 10pm, $27.50.

 

The Bad Plus   Give   (Columbia)

As the mildly infamous trio (are they too rock for jazz?, too entertaining for seriousness?) drastically deconstructs its pop standards (Pixies, Sabbath, Nirvana) they create a fetching blend of uncertainty and anticipation. How much ballyhoo can a bossa nova take? How roughshod can you ride over a rumba? Their bombast is built around nuance, however. When splashmeister David King unloads his thud arsenal on “Cheney Piñata” (take that you fucking warmonger!) you truly wonder where the piece might end up. Eradicating foregone conclusions deserves all the credit the world.

 

The Bad Plus
When its not finding the fantasias in Tears For Fears tunes or using Ahmad Jamal’s vocab on grooves inspired by ELP (not ELO), the rowdy piano trio’s new *Prog* demonstrates just how physical and broad the language of swing can be. Recent outings have found the scripted flourishes to be as vivid as ever, whether its Bowie or Rush on the chopping block.

Highline Ballroom. Saturday, 30.

 

Ethan Iverson

He plays differently outside The Bad Plus – there’s more air to the solos. It’s as if the pianist has extra time to follow his muse down a path and through the brambles to see if treasure awaits. Given his canny sense of abstraction, it often does. Especially when the team consists of Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard – dudes who can make the brambles seem bewitching.

Smalls. Monday, March 31

 

Recalibrating the dimension of pop and classical tunes, these wonderfully inventive wiseacres (the wittiest piano trio in jazz?) offer new perspective after new perspective. On the forthcoming *For All I Care*, they add singer Wendy Lewis to upend everything from Bee Gees to Roger Miller. And if you can make Yes’ “Long Distance Runaround” as plaintive as something from Laura Nyro’s *New York City Tenderberry,* you’re doing god’s work. No vocals this week. Just ultra-tight improvisations that bow to architecture and have a mild pomp fetish.

9 pm & 11 pm.  $30. 178 Village Vanguard, 7th Avenue South.  212-255-4037  MACNIE

 

The Bad Plus 1 featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel

The scalawag trio has a unique chemistry – it will be fun to see what happens when they have guests over. It should be fine because the guitarist is more confrere than interloper. They’re all members of the same general generation, and there’s been intermittent interminglings between Iverson, Anderson and Rosenwinkel in the past. Meaning they’re on the same page…unless they decide to jump off.

New York Society for Ethical Culture. Tuesday, 24

 

Their pomp is on purpose and it sates an interest in ceremony – they may be playing in a club, but they’re concert performers with a yen for the oversized, like Mingus and Keith Moon and Rachmaninoff. They’re also addicted to wit and subtlety, so storms like Ornette’s “Song X” are all about dimension. Architecture, too: regardless of their commitment to rule-bending, pianist Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson, and drummer Dave King would have it no other way. PS: steady work makes them ridiculously tight.

9 pm & 11 pm.  $30. 178 Village Vanguard, 7th Avenue South.  212-255-4037  MACNIE

 

Ethan Iverson Trio

The Bad Plus pianist spends a good chunk of time rethinking the norm when he puts his brainy skew on standards and show tunes. That means bop can have a pensive side, and romance can sound ornery. Last time I caught him, he threw curve after curve, and each was over the plate.

Smalls. Wednesday, 7 – Thursday, 8

 

The Bad Plus + James Carter + Charlie Hunter:

The Bad boys bully jazz until it shows its rock side. That means a splash ‘n’ thud drummer and a cover of “We Are the Champions.” Hunter’s Trio splits the diff between unk-fay and oove-gray. Carter’s Organ Trio positions its blast-furnace sax boss in the center of some hard-hitting swing. Prepare to get physical.

Friday, June 17. Prospect Park Bandshell.

 

The Bad Plus    (DownBeat Hot Box blurb)

I’ll take the Bee Gees over “Barracuda,” and Babbit over Yes, but for the most part they once again connect the dots in zig-zag maneuver that could implode at any moment, but doesn’t. Give or take a dreary moment, it’s a strong statement about the esthetic they’ve honed and the experimentalism they cherish. THREE AND A HALF STARS

 

The Bad Plus; Gold Sounds

Two chops-heavy jazz outfits that love messing with rock. Pomp and pummel informs the piano trio, one of the wittiest bands to come along in years. Don’t believe the haters who say its shtick only. James Carter and Cyrus Chestnut’s hook-up on the Pavement songbook also gives them some wiggle room between hooks and skronk.

Irving Plaza. June 21

 

Recalibrating the dimension of pop and classical tunes, these wonderfully inventive wiseacres (the wittiest piano trio in jazz?) offer new perspective after new perspective. On the forthcoming *For All I Care*, they add singer Wendy Lewis to upend everything from Bee Gees to Roger Miller. And if you can make Yes’ “Long Distance Runaround” as plaintive as something from Laura Nyro’s *New York City Tenderberry,* you’re doing god’s work. No vocals this week. Just ultra-tight improvisations that bow to architecture and have a mild pomp fetish.

9 pm & 11 pm.  $30. 178 Village Vanguard, 7th Avenue South.  212-255-4037  MACNIE

 

 

Ethan Iverson

He plays differently outside The Bad Plus – there’s more air to the solos. It’s as if the pianist has extra time to follow his muse down a path and through the brambles to see if treasure awaits. Given his canny sense of abstraction, it often does. Especially when the team consists of Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard – dudes who can make the brambles seem bewitching.

Smalls. Monday, March 31

 

The Bad Plus

Look beyond the bombast stereotype by spending time with “Giant” from last year’s somewhat schizy *Prog*. The trio’s pulse valentine is also a closing credits theme just waiting to find a flick. Nuance has been part of their game plan since day one, and though they roar like hell, there’s lots of subtlety flying by, too.

Blue Note.  Wednesday, 19 – Sunday, 23

 

The Bad Plus

Back in the early fall, the Bad boys did mucho damage at the Blue Note, Dave King’s drums causing landslides, Reid Anderson’s tunes erecting labyrinths, Ethan Iverson’s piano precision boggling minds. The shtick of their pop tune fetish can be cutesy or cool – it depends on the tune chosen and the vibe conjured. I’ll take more Bee Gees, less Rush, and pray they hit overdrive on “Layin’ a Strip for the Higher-Self State Line.”

Village Vanguard. Wednesday, 24 – Sunday, 28.

 

The Bad Plus
Give
Columbia 90771
Those vistas The Bad Plus referenced in the title of their previous album – you know, the major label debut whose rad approach to repertory earned the New York trio a pant-load of press – are becoming broader. Working a concept that’s centered on the act of questioning, Give muscles its way through an array of tunes that trade whimsy for drama. In the middle of Ornette’s swirling “Street Woman,” they hit the brakes to ruminate in the lower register. Making a molehill into a mountain on the Pixies’ “Velouria,” they create a thickly-stitched piece that’s the aural equivalent of a drawing room curtain. Maybe this is their noir record. If so, the dark side suits ‘em. To paraphrase Bon Jovi, they give gloom a good name.

 

It didn’t dawn on me until I spent time with the new *Never Stop*, but their famed flourishes can sometimes be heard as tsunamis of catharsis. There’s an emo aspect to the originals that populate the disc, with Ethan Iverson’s piano pining at various points, and Dave King’s drums fueling anthemic expressionism. It’s even in the ballads: can’t recall them ever offering more pathos than they do on “Snowball.” This big stage might bolster such oversized notions. Saxophonist Same Newsome opens.

$25. 9 pm. Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street.   212-533-2111 MACNIE

https://lamentforastraightline.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/top-five-ideas-gleaned-from-last-nights-bad-plus-gig/

 

The Bad Plus, Village Vanguard  12/31 – 1/6

Jazz fans rarely think of The Bad Plus as traditionalists, but the most celebrated and scrutinized piano trio of the last decade certainly seems to be the go-to crew for ringing in the new year at the Village Vanguard. Revelers who want to kiss the old anum goodbye with a dab of poignancy while splashing into the great unknown have found that a visit to the revered jazz cellar is a must when the band is holding forth. It remains remarkable that drummer Dave King, bassist Reid Anderson, and pianist Ethan Iverson can straddle that line of sensitivity and ferociousness, but “Pound For Pound,” from this year’s *Made Possible* is both steely AND bittersweet. Their approach nudges everything towards the majestic, so expect even a momentary “Auld Lang Syne” to boast an epic vibe. And don’t forget to go back and check ‘em on a normal old Thursday night.

 

The Bad Plus @ Village Vanguard

There’s always been a dollop of ceremony in the esteemed trio’s rerouted pop tunes and noble-nasty originals, so when they spend New Year’s Eve at our most venerable jazz club, there’s some version of extraordinary in the air. Plus, they’re smitten with surprise, and it’s always nice to feel that anything can happen on the cusp of a new 3-6-5. Ring in 2014 examining possibilities…

Weds 17 – Sunday 21   The Bad Plus  @ Vanguard

 

After all these years it kinda comes down to volition. One of the reasons the mainstream press deems the King-Reid-Iverson triumvirate a “power trio” is because of the bedrock oomph that guides their well-designed maneuvers. The pianist’s poignant gusto, the drummer’s natural swag, and the bassist’s stately projection – each is crucial to the chemistry at the heart of their authoritative implosions. No wonder their most gripping sets feel like some sort of theatre.

8:30 pm + 10:30 pm.  $30. 178 Village Vanguard, 7th Avenue South.  212-255-4037  MACNIE

 

The trio is known for messing with jewels like “Heart of Glass” and “Iron Man” but their new disc is dedicated to a different kind of classic – “The Rite Of Spring.” Genuflecting to Strav’s wise audacity while claiming it as part of an increasingly catholic jazz canon, they refract its grandeur and reveal its swing. Which come to think of it, was their M.O. with Blondie and Sabbath, too. Given their seismic sense of interplay and drummer Dave Kings’ charisma, it’s a good bet they’re going to tear the place apart.

7:30 pm & 9:30 pm $20. Jazz Standard. 116 East 27 Street. 212-576-2232. MACNIE

 

*Inevitable Western* picks up where *Made Possible* left off – sober tunes (especially Reid Anderson’s) played with a charismatic frenzy. Don’t let the title have you looking for a pastoral prairie vibe – their stuff may be cinematic these days, but it’s still a bit crazed. THREE AND A HALF STARS

 

The Bad Plus Rocks The Clock

It hasn’t been all Blondie, Sabbath and Nirvana. Because they dig sophisticated blends of eloquent jitter-swing and stormy rumination, The Bad Plus – the rogue piano/bass/drums outfit initially heralded for exploding pop and rock nuggets – has occasionally peppered its sets with Ornette Coleman tunes. “Song X” here, “Law Years” there – every time I’ve heard them launch into the master’s book, the almost giddy joy that’s defines his music has amped the trio’s action. Now TBP is adding horns and turning to the entirety of Coleman’s 1972 opus, Science Fiction. Saxophonists Tim Berne (who rampaged through OC’s world with John Zorn in ‘89) and Sam Newsome connect with trumpeter Ron Miles in a front line that will magnify the frolic of anthems like “Happy House” and “School Work” while the trio keeps the grooves at a steady boil. They’ve said Ornette’s music is part of their DNA. Can’t wait to see the family resemblance.

Oct 23, 7:30 pm NYU Skirball Center for the Arts

http://nyuskirball.org/calendar/badplus

 

The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

Nonesuch

Part of the attraction of following the Bad Plus is watching them shift gears. The provocative trio began about 15 years ago blending rock nuggets into their book of rigorous originals. Then they focused on said originals, which became more idiosyncratic, refined and alluring. Then they invited vocalist Wendy Lewis to put an art song spin on nuggets penned by Heart, Roger Miller and Yes.  Then they polished those compositional skills a bit more, honing sideways strategies regarding time signatures and melodies. Then they broadened their initial repertory gambit, parachuting into Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and giving a big smooch to their favorite Ornette Coleman album, Science Fiction. Now, for *The Bad Plus Joshua Redman,* they’ve become a momentary quartet, making a kaleidoscopic record with one of jazz’s most celebrated saxophonists. It’s a transition that’s as refreshing (and revealing) as each of the above, furthering the breadth to their bedrock POV. And it’s a knockout album.

Redman first connected with bassist Reid Anderson, drummer Dave King and pianist Ethan Iverson in 2011; the camaraderie found on this new album has developed during intermittent live shows. Rapport is paramount for anyone playing tunes this elaborate. Making what Iverson has called “odd-meters” glide with a steady flow ain’t easy. One of the Bad Plus’ ongoing victories is having rigorous pieces play naturally. From “Beauty Has It Hard” to “Friend Or Foe,” Redman negotiates these cagey themes with the kind of power a method actor draws upon. They’re sometimes fitful – the trio’s ploys of playing tear-ass through zig-zag labyrinths are famous to devotees – but his horn eases its way through the twists and turns like the performance couldn’t exist without it.

Grandeur has become part of the band’s personality during the last several years, and while I sometimes thing its execution is too florid by half, their musicianship usually wins me over. Redman helps in that realm, too. The exhilarating arc of “Silence Is the Question” might be deemed bombastic if his cri de coeur weren’t so deeply mournful. As the group calibrates the ballad’s explosions, King and Iverson unite to squeeze every drop of emotion from the fanfare.

 Perhaps most convincing of all is “County Seat,’ a dizzy bounce with jazz-ma-tazz feel that harks to their early classic, “Layin’ A Strip For The Higher-Self State Line.” Giddy and joyous, it conjures a Dexter Gordon meeting Raymond Scott vibe – a fetching impossibility.

 

The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

Nonesuch 548920

FOUR STARS

You don’t think of The Bad Plus as a band that needs any help. Since the trio ignited itself a decade and a half ago, it’s been rich with intrepid ideas and the skills to fulfill them. But fellow travelers have been intermittently welcomed. Guitarist Bill Frisell was invited to celebrate Paul Motian’s music, and vocalist Wendy Lewis joined to put an art-song spin on classic rock nuggets – adding a complimentary voice to the mix can revitalize longstanding formulas. So the bridge-building Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson and Dave King effect with Joshua Redman on this latest album has precedent. What makes it unusual is its depth; mining a connection that seems intuitive to both sides, it’s as if the saxophonist was a blood brother.

Integration is everything here. The Bad Plus is famous for throwing curve balls into their pieces. Contoured rhythmic wobble, feints towards melodic disintegration, grandiosity that may or may not arrive with a grin – each has been an occasional part of their design schema. As often as not, their deployment is part of a measured approach that stresses calculation over not abandonment. Josh’s horn, though naturally expressionistic, navigates such waters masterfully. Together, on bubbly ballads like “Beauty Has It Hard” and bristling ruminations like “The Mending,” the group alignment is spot-on. When I caught them on stage at the start of a summer tour, the coordination was even more expert, with all four members honing their moves to support the music’s architecture while still finding room to be playful – two discrete lingos making hay by keeping things wound tight.

That said, the foursome knows when to let off steam. From the giddy romp of “County Seat” to the dizzy swirl “Faith Through Error” they’ve not abandoned hubbub. The ardor that forms so much of jazz’s temperament is coursing through these tracks, even if it’s meted out, and by the time the epic “Silence Is The Question” drifts away, you’ll know charisma is a big part of *TBPJR*’s equation as well.

 

3. THE BAD PLUS JOSHUA REDMAN “The Bad Plus Joshua Redman”

No walking-bass swing, no Afro-Latin groove, no blues. So what else is new? Jazz’s foremost unclassifiable, prog-damaged piano trio combined forces with one of its most charismatic saxophone soloists, exploring the trio’s gleaming, knotty structures, informed by Redman’s searing introspection, the occasional pop hook — even an affecting ballad with brushes.

I remember the goose pimples I got when The Bad Plus eased into “Rock the Clock” a couple years ago at an NYU auditorium. It’s not their song – it’s an Ornette Coleman deep cut. But the esteemed trio, along with its three-piece horn section, managed to put a personal imprint on it as they clattered their way through its nu-bopjoie de vivre. The update was a part of a repertory gambit that found the band that has famously covered Blondie, Roger Miller, Stravinsky, Yes, and ABBA, recounting the entirety of the alto saxophonist’s Science Fiction album, an album both revered and undervalues by the jazz public. They did a great job. The horns (Tim Berne, Sam Newsome, Ron Miles) echoing the gnarled fluency of Coleman’s original ensemble, and the trio (Dave King, Reid Anderson, Ethan Iverson) infusing tunes such as “Happy House” and “Broken Shadows” with the kind of eruptive coordination that made the stage a hotbed of activity. When they were pensive, there was always a pulse. When they erupted, poise paralleled their every step. Ornette was part of a renegade festival that countered the Newport norm in 1960. Now his music front and center at Fort Adams, interpreted by a squad of vets who hear its drama and engagement. Their spin through Science Fiction should start a discourse about Ornette’s impact and value of current day modernists essaying historical nuggets.

 

The Bad Plus – It’s Hard From “I Walk the Line” to “The Robots,” there’s a music box vibe to a few of these covers, and it’s fetching.  But mix-wise, I wish King’s drums had a bit more punch. God knows he kicks mucho azz. THREE STARS  DownBeat Hot Box

 

Exit Music (For A Pianist)

Tick-tick-tick…the clock is winding down for fans of The Bad Plus – or more specifically, fans of wily jazz trio’s original line-up. The band, which earned plenty of critical kudos through its inventive updates of pop tunes such as “Heart of Glass” and “Iron Man,” has announced that founding member Ethan Iverson is splitting. The pianist’s resourceful lines were crucial to defining TBP’s oft dramatic, occasionally explosive sound, so a sea change is pending as Orrin Evans, another superb improviser, waits to take over the piano chair at the start of 2018. The group (with bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King) has only two NYC runs slated before they end this year with a Village Vanguard bash, so if you’re an Iverson zealot (and there are many), one of this week’s Jazz Standard shows are on your must-see list. Special request: “Cheney Piñata.”

Village Vanguard