Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Bad Plus – Blunt Object: Live in Tokyo (Sony 2005)

The Bad Plus continues their reign of terror over the moldy figs of jazz with this live album recorded during their recent world tour. The group is composed of Reid Anderson on bass, Ethan Iverson on piano and Dave King on drums. What makes The Bad Plus interesting is their mix of popular music and jazz that combines to make as “acoustic fusion” that keeps the volume and dynamics of rock and roll while not compromising the improvisation and virtuosity of jazz.

Their pop and rock covers kick off the album with a version of Queen’s “We are the Champions” which really suits the band well with its grandiose structure giving the band a chance to have some tongue in cheek fun. The other cover that really stands out is a familiar one for The Bad Plus and a staple of their live performances, Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” This is taken at a break-neck pace with Iverson leading the charge. Two of the group’s original songs stand out as impressive as well, firstly “And Here We Test Our Powers of Observation” which is a fast paced tune with an interesting melody. Finally Reid Anderson’s “Silence is the Question” gets an extended exploration, beginning very slowly and allowing much room for a bass solo before cascading into a frenetic near free-jazz conclusion.

The only dud on the record is a strange two and a half minute cover of “My Funny Valentine” that ends the disc. It’s accompanied by faux vocals which are spat out in a deliberately annoying way. I don’t know if it’s meant to be a send up of the song or of self-reverential singers, but in a rare case for the band the performance falls flat. But there’s still much here to enjoy, The Bad Plus continues to be one of the most interesting mainstream jazz groups on the scene today, and one miscue shouldn’t keep people from enjoying their many successes.

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