Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Bad Plus - The Rite of Spring (Sony Masterworks, 2014)

The Bad Plus, Ethan Iverson on piano, Reid Anderson on bass and Dave King on drums have long been one of my favorite bands, They are in a continuous state of evolution, from a band known for their cheeky covers of rock songs, to producers of excellent original material, the group is always interesting and surprising. In 2011, the group received grant money and decided to arrange a trio version of Igor Stravinsky's classical composition The Rite of Spring. After touring widely with this piece as the as the center of their performance, they recorded it as a full length presentation. Since I know next to nothing about classical music, the album threw me at first, but the percussive nature of much of it gave me a handhold to appreciate the music. Sections of “The Adoration of the Earth” have powerful rhythmic sections with Iverson pounding out dark sounding piano along with thick bass and potent drumming. I’m not sure how much of the music is written or improvised, but I guess it doesn’t matter in the end. The short “Ritual of Abduction” has splashes of piano and cymbals before making way for ascending piano and bass. “Games of the Two Rival Tribes/Procession of the Sage” is a dynamic performance, moving between storming loud sections into witty faster paced piano led areas of music. “The Sacrifice” has pounding ominous piano and drums, that make way for disjointed areas of the trio playing together, making for an altogether unsettling musical performance. This album really stretched my musical comfort zone, even more than freely improvised jazz would do. With that music you can let yourself go and enjoy the noise and cascade of the music. This is much more challenging, an album that demands your full attention throughout, but as I listened to it more and more my appreciation of the music moved from bewilderment to grudging admiration to true enjoyment. It is an arduous journey, but one worth taking. The Rite of Spring - amazon.com

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