Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Bad Plus - Prog (Heads Up, 2007)

Now on their own Heads Up imprint, The Bad Plus - pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King continue their dynamic exploration of jazz, rock and roll and everything in between. The album's title alludes to the love of progressive rock by King and Anderson and that love comes through on the rock and roll songs the group chose to cover for this session. Rush's AOR staple "Tom Sawyer" is tailor made for Dave King's huge drum sound and the bombast of the original tune actually works in the groups favor, allowing them to blast through the tune with joyful abandon. The eighties radio hit "Everybody Wants To Rule the World" is slowed down considerably and is given a thoughtful, almost sad reading as the album's lead off track. The rock covers are so interesting that the lone jazz standard "This Guy's In Love With You" comes across as a little stuffy. The band doesn't get enough credit for their original songs, with much of the attention being focused on their covers, but there are some good ones here, especially Reid Anderson's wonderful "Physical Cities" which exploits the bands strength and dynamism over a nine minute, constantly shifting landscape. "1980 World Champion" is the latest installment in a little story thread that has been running through previous TBP albums and ends the record on a breathlessly upbeat note. This is another very fun and enjoyable album from The Bad Plus. I think he key to the bands success lies in it's humor and willingness not to take itself quite so seriously. This streak of Midwest-born populism that runs through the bands music, whether original or cover is a refreshing change from the often "Serious as Your Life" jazz scene.

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