Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman (Nonesuch, 2015)

The Bad Plus, consisting of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King and tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman are both A-List bands or bandleaders, so it caused quite a ripple of interest when they started an on-off collaboration in 2011. They where finally able to clear their respective schedules and record their first album together in 2014 and release it in the spring of 2015, and the music is well worth the anticipation. “As This Moment Slips Away” opens this album with a medium tempoed pop tinged feel, as mellow saxophone and piano swirl in a gentle breeze. Things slowly begin to build in pace and the rhythm becomes more complex and pronounced and Redman floats atop this groove to its conclusion. There is a slower, sadder and more emotional feel to “Beauty Has it Hard” before Redman moves into descending shapes of saxophone, ushering in a heavier sound. He moves into sharp sax bleats before the group returns to the pastoral theme to conclude. “County Seat” sees the full quartet blasting out of the gate, aided by ripping piano and strong bass and drums. The saxophone muscles in and there is a great all too short section for Dave King and Joshua Redman just thrashing and wailing. Things are then a reduced to a simmer before a fine choppy conclusion. A Bad Plus standby, “Dirty Blonde”, is opened with the trio taking the beginning at high speed, with the music sounding a hair more produced and pronounced. Joshua Redman has his work cut out for himself trying to power his way in here, but succeeds admirably swirling around and through the heavy Bad Plus rhythm. Redman’s spiraling saxophone locks in with Dave King’s drums once more on “Faith Through Error” and then Reid Anderson joins in to set the music spinning faster and faster. And then why not add heavily percussive piano into the hopper? It’s all too much, too heavy, too fast, ramping up the centrifugal force to near blackout. Indeed there is dark mojo afoot but it was completely explosive and thrilling. “Friend or Foe“ features ripples of piano and updrafts of saxophone over Dave King’s frequently martial beat. The loud – soft – loud dynamic of the song works quite well, with the musicians locking into an understated groove before turning to a pressure - and - release format to keep everything fresh and interesting. Bassist Reid Anderson gets a nice feature during the opening of his own composition “Silence is the Question” which develops into a ballad form with soft, yearning saxophone. Things develop slowly, Iverson slides his way in and King joins with subtle percussion. But they slowly build up speed and heft up to the point where strong wailing saxophone once again meets pummeling drums before everyone pulls back for a thoughtful and majestic ending. This was a very thoughtful meeting of the minds where egotism was not an issue and all of the musicians gave of themselves in equal measures. Both Joshua Redman and The Bad Plus have very busy performance and recording schedules, but hopefully there will be room for a sequel down the road. The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman - amazon.com

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