Last month, The Bad Plus released their tenth studio album, Inevitable Western. That first sentence sort of blows my mind. Wasn’t it yesterday I was in the used CD store buying These Are The Vistas? How could this be album number ten? I’m just now starting to wrap my brain around their version of The Rite of Spring. That just came out in March! It seems impossible that they have another new release already. I just saw them live, with Joshua Redman, at the Detroit Jazz Festival. How is the grey matter supposed to digest an entire new collection of original music?
If you remember, The Bad Plus is made up of bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson, and drummer David King. The three of them are equals in this endeavor, all writing original music, and no one man acting as leader ahead of the other two. They form a true collective organism, and play with an unspoken communication and connection that only exists with master musicians that have played together for a long time.
In listening to Inevitable Western this week, a few thoughts come to mind. I was always blown away by their cathartic, over-the-top, hyper-energetic deconstructions of tunes by other artists (Nirvana/Neil Young/Ornette Coleman etc). They brought things to the point of chaos, and somehow brought you back. Sometimes I didn’t want to come back, I just wanted to embrace the entropy. Either I am getting used to this group, or they are beginning to replace some of that kinetic frenzy with some meditative music. The first tune on the new album is “Hear You” and serves as a good example of The Bad Plus serving up the sublime.
The three of them have listened to and absorbed so much music. The second track, “Gold Prisms Incorporated”, sounds to my ears like they have borrowed some things from the minimalists. The group has sponged up their Philip Glass, Steve Reich and the like, and given it back to us as 100% Bad Plus. Frankly, The Bad Plus gives it back to us a lot more interesting than the way they found it.
These guys work so well together, they make some very difficult things sound easy. They play effortlessly through time signatures that are uneven and changing rapidly. Not just play, but improvise as a group and brilliantly. Check out “You Will Lose All Fear”. Maybe you have to have played an instrument with other musicians to appreciate how difficult it would be just to all be in the same place at the same time, let alone do something with this high level of musicality. This band had a reputation of putting out music of rhythmic complexity, energy, imagination, and high intellect. Real brain candy. This new album is no exception.
I really miss liner notes at a time like this. My digital copy doesn’t tell me who wrote each tune, although I know they are all originals penned by members of the band. The artwork on the cover of each of their albums has been very intriguing as well, and I wish I could tell you more about that. In that sense, I might recommend the quaint old Compact Disc version, hoping that the included text would offer more than I can right now. For those of you with a desire for more instant gratification, I give you the link to Inevitable Western on Spotify. Enjoy!