Photo – Michael Findlay
Masters of the musical short story, the New York based The Bad Plus offer a surprising night of rock-inspired jazz twinned with classical piano on a date with Ragnarok. The musical rapport between the trio, playing their own compositions from their cd Inevitable Western, has an almost telepathic vibe to it – they really do go off together on their own trip; the organic feel to the ensemble's music making is delightful to witness. The trio’s repertoire involves a signature feel to the surprisingly abrupt endings of their long musical narratives (although the 'twist at the end' almost becomes predictable, it could nearly be said). They started with Pound for Pound, a classical-influenced repetitive piano melody which builds up powerfully, immediately introducing the audience to drummer David King’s dynamic counterpoint to pianist Ethan Iverson, the sound held together by the body of Reid Anderson’s bass in the centre.
Extending the boundaries of jazz in both content and form, Iverson, Anderson and King create a musical whole with piano and drums exploring progressive-to-avant-garde melody grounded by the interwoven bass lines. Standing centre-stage between the piano and drums, Anderson back-announces the trio’s tunes with droll pieces of flash fiction delivered with a signature humour and quirky inventiveness.
In the slower, more extensive numbers like Do It Again and I Hear You there's a palpable sense of three musicians in synch with each other, prepared to forgo ‘busyness’ for feeling and allowing for an exposed musical vulnerability. Cheney Pinata features King’s ‘heavy’ rock drumming, colliding with Iverson’s carefully placed piano notes and Anderson’s weaving bass. The poignant bass solo introduction to Inevitable Western displays Anderson’s musical elegance and the capacity of The Bad Plus to perform as a single brain, each of its members playing with synaptic rapport and reminding us that the neurons that fire together wire together.
Melbourne International Jazz Festival
The Bad Plus
Venue: Merlyn Theatre, The Coopers Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Date: 30 May, 2015
Tickets: $30 – $59
Bookings: 03 9685 5111