The Bad Plus: The Bad Plus

The renowned piano trio, now a piano-less quartet with guitar and tenor, sets aside pop covers to play a varied set of originals

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The Bad Plus started life as a piano trio in 2000, their first eponymously titled album following a year later on Fresh Sound’s New Talent label. Ethan Iverson filled the piano chair until 2017 when Orrin Evans took over the role until he in turn left the band after four years.

What we have here is the latest piano-less line-up with ever-presents Reid Anderson and Dave King joined by guitarist Ben Monder plus reedman Chris Speed. These new additions inevitably alter the band’s modus operandi. In the past, the policy was regularly to call upon all kinds of material from the pop, rock and jazz repertoire but for this release composing duties are shared by the Anderson and King.

Over the eight tracks we are treated to a mix of approaches, including the free-based Sick Fire (all about tenor and guitar battling each other) then the more subdued performance that is Stygian Pools, almost languid by comparison. Then we have Not Even Close To Far Off, with a heavy rock beat and Speed seemingly in two minds as to whether he is riding the tempo or working against it.

Some of the sounds can be repetitive but there is no doubting the quartet work hard to squeeze out as many variations as possible from the instrumentation on hand. Their music might not be to the taste of conservative jazz fans, and is more likely to appeal to a younger audience who have grown up on a diet of bands who have a broader attitude to style.

Discography
Motivations 11; Sun Wall: Not Even Close To Far Off; You Won’t See Me Before I Come Back; Sick Fire; Stygian Poets; In The Bright Future; The Dandy (42.47)
Reid Anderson (b); Dave King (d); Ben Monder (g); Chris Speed (ts, cl). September 2021.
Edition Records EDN1208