Though jazz trio the Bad Plus have made a name for themselves playing innovative covers of popular music (i.e. Radiohead’s “Karma Police” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) such tunes are merely a drop in their sea of sounds. Wednesday’s early set at New York’s hallowed Blue Note found the group—that is, Ethan Iverson, piano; Reid Anderson, bass; and Dave King, drums—in their element and exploring all aspects of their original compositions.
Opening with new pieces, “You Are” and “Who’s He”, the group passed around rhythms and melodies like a game of telephone, each reflecting their individual style. Iverson, in a suit and tie, would create tender one-handed lines that could blossom into a flurry of notes, Anderson, in plaid, was disarming yet dynamic, and King, wearing a striped tee, would milk every texture imaginable from his drum kit.
King was also easily the most animated and physical player on stage, twisting and contorting his face while reaching across his cymbals to scrape them with various mallets or drumming with his fingers to match an ethereal tone. At one point he even used a plastic E.T. toy to add an eerie, screechy sound, not unlike a fax, to a new and untitled piece.
Two Anderson compositions were the set’s most prominent, “Rhinoceros Is My Profession” and “And Here We Test Our Powers of Observation”. Ridiculous titles aside, the former was a thunderous and cathartic burst, edging towards the rock end of the spectrum, and the latter’s underlying urgency was supported by King’s downright Latin feel under the elongated piano chords, syncopating hits like swinging hips.
Photos by Thomas Hauner