Sometimes, the beauty of a piece of music can be found in the extreme level of difficulty playing that music entails. Other times, the beauty can be found in simplicity and raw emotion. Ask anyone, and they can give you a different answer for why or what music is beautiful. But one unarguable pinnacle of beauty exists when you can’t tell if the pure, vivid emotion a musician is putting out is better than the extreme level of skill. And that’s a pinnacle that The Bad Plus has a stake on.
There isn’t enough good that can be said about the music that The Bad Plus is creating. They are a progressive jazz trio of insane talent: pianist Ethan Iverson, upright bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer Dave King. Their intense polyrhythms and hammering complex tempos are flooring on a regular occurrence, but technical difficulty is only impressive for so long. The Bad Plus adds to their talent with a huge ol’ chunk of soul. They write music that forces a body to move, music that is undeniably emotional. It’s intense, and not always kind, but always fascinating. If you’re a jazz fan of any sort and you haven’t checked these guys out yet, dear god PLEASE listen to The Bad Plus. (Made Possible is a great album to start with).
In this album, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, The Bad Plus are not alone in their talent; joined by sax player Joshua Redman they take the soul to another level. The Bad Plus can be so visceral in their compositions, so driving, constructing their songs so cyclically and accurately, and it was wonderful to hear a saxophonist thrown in the midst of that. Redman and the trio battle beautifully, pulling music out of each other. Redman compels them to slow down and ride out smooth moments instead of deconstructing them, and the trio challenges Redman with blistering tempos and almost geometrical composing. In particular, the moments where pianist Ethan Iverson and Joshua Redman go toe to toe are quite compelling. Honestly, they’re just ridiculous. If a group of ex-speed metal heads made jazz, it might sound like The Bad Plus in their moments of insanity.
A few notable tracks: “Faith Through Error” sits you down and shuts you up. It’s intense, chaotic, and explosive, featuring a sweet, sweet accelerando where Redman and Iverson seem to crash into each other, perfectly in time. “Lack The Faith But Not The Wine” comes in right after and patches you up from the crash. Redman is golden here, dipping smooth and low with his sax. “Friend or Foe,” the second to last track, combines all of the best things these 4 have to offer and stretches them out to dry. The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman take their time in this one, giving long stretches of respite amidst tight crescendos.
This is an album worth returning to time after time after time again, even for those who may not seek out jazz. It’s powerful, sultry, and entrancing. Enjoy!
Recommended If You Like: The Bad Plus, Joshua Redman, Robert Glasper, Bill Frisell
Recommended Tracks: 5 (Dirty Blonde), 6 (Faith Through Error), 1 (As This Moment Slips Away), 7 (Lack The Faith But Not The Wine), 8 (Friend or Foe)