Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Bad Plus - Never Stop (E1 Entertainment, 2010)

Coming into their tenth year as a band, The Bad Plus: pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King have grown from a band notorious for their covers of rock and pop songs to a group that has carved its own original niche through unique original compositions. This album features all original compositions by each member of the group, and shows them exploring a wide range of musical textures. "The Radio Tower Has A Beating Heart" opens the album with a lush and full trio sound and deep seated emotion. Rippling piano and simmering drums with a strong bass pulse move things along before a shift around the four minute mark, builds a lighter swinging theme. Fast pace and a strong beat usher in "Never Stop" where Iverson is improvising over a static beat that weaves texture and builds tension. The tension releases with a loud dynamic section propelled by excellent King drumming. "You Are" begins with a lush medium tempo anchored by thick, strong bass and nimble piano and drums. There's a section of light and agile collective improvisation led by bright sounding piano before the group finishes up with a flourish. More excellent thick and elastic bass powers "My Friend Metatron" with the piano rippling by and drums biding time. Dynamic shifts of tempo keep the music fresh and alive. The ballad "People Like You" slows the pace using open space well in a spare and slowly developing performance. Subtle bass and drums provide a backdrop for the piano whose notes fall like gentle drops of rain on a fall evening. The impishly fun "Beryl Loves to Dance" is fast and happy with a killer beat. The song is about an imaginary young girl who loves to cut loose and dance, personified by the fast rolling piano and wild beat, which shifts back to a slinky funk groove. "Snowball" is a slow and spacious ode to winter, featuring a think bass solo and to my ears a little Jarrett influence in the piano. "2 p.m." bounces back with a fast and full sound with strong piano and drums. Full sounding collective improvisation builds to a frenetic pace, fast and free. Slower and with a feeling of emotional longing, "Bill Hickman at Home" is a character study in music. Slowly morphing into a bluesy melancholic feel, the music has subtle brushwork and Monkish piano that builds in a probing and shifting manner. "Super America" takes things out on a happy note, with a bouncy and poppish performance that has a propulsive and funky nature complete with synchronized hand claps. This was a very successful album, after ten years of excellent music that band has carved an instantly recognizable sound and approach to their music. One of Ethan Iverson's heroes, Lester Young, always implored musicians to tell stories with their music. The Bad Plus offers little vignettes or short stories with each of the tracks on this album with add up to an impressive narrative whole. Never Stop -

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