ION INDIE MAGAZINE May 2017, Volume 36 - Page 49

THE BAD PLUS is a jazz trio that strives to avoid category or confinement to expectation. An unknowing listener stumbling upon them who might have ideas about what they would hear from a jazz trio--for better or for worse-- undoubtedly would get something much different than what they bargained for. The Bad Plus, in their 17th year, continue to push the boundaries of their music. But in their latest album, "It's Hard", they returned after many years to the roots of what brought them to the international stage--playing cover songs and playing them "out". Whereas many jazz artists approach a cover and open up the “Great American Songbook”, The Bad Plus borrows from the catalogs of NIRVANA and THE BEE GEES. In between, they have extensive original music, which is just as interesting. The Bad Plus brought their unique music to an equally unique and intimate venue at the ARDEN CONCERT GILD in Arden, Delaware. Finding conventional form to be unnecessary, they started the night with a 15 minute Q&A session, which covered gear talk, how they got started as kids, and playing the scene in their hometown of Minneapolis. The trio eased into their music lightly, as drummer DAVE KING explored his kit with his bare hands. But The Bad Plus takes each song through an evolution of sound, exploring extremes of dynamics and tempo oftentimes building to fervent climax. Acclimated to play the music intently, they also don't hesitate to introduce elements that are humorous. This is most evident in King's sometimes unconventional drumming--which was as much a sight to SEE as it was to be heard. Between numbers, bassist REID ANDERSON introduced the songs, but digressed into dry, tongue-in-cheek wit, that pulled in irony just as their music sometimes did. The audience broke into laughter frequently, as he told stories about song origins--that even had the band laughing. Like when he descried their original "Self-Serve" as a “frozen yogurt fantasia”. There was an occasional light political remark as well--like when Anderson mentioned that they "used to play a song called 'Re-Elect That'… which we just don't play anymore."