Jazz CD Reviews
The Bad Plus – Prog – Heads Up
Published on May 4, 2007
(Reid Anderson, bass; Ethan Iverson, piano; David King, drums)
The Bad Plus have made quite a splash in providing a new view of the traditional jazz piano trio. They have involved pop, funk, rock and other influences to a higher degree than the typical trio setting, in the process attracting listeners from the pop side to the primarily jazz-oriented sounds of a small trio without any guitar, sax or other horns.
I liked their previous album, but this one got on my nerves, to be frank. The main problem is that all three players seem to be constantly struggling to get a bigger and louder sound – to enlarge the trio setting to more of an orchestral sound. Drummer King is out of control – way too strong and seriously overbalancing the trio. Pianist Iverson tries to get a big sound with all sorts of constant arpeggios, which don’t necessarily advance the musical ideas. Some synth is used to enlarge the sound, but that’s done with some taste. The second track – Physical Cities – is absolutely maddening with repetition. It struck me as worse than early Philip Glass. If it were on vinyl one could easily think the needle was stuck in the groove. David Bowie’s Life On Mars is given an over-the-top treatment with synth and smashing drums that reminded me of some of the out-of-control excesses of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Burt Bachrach’s This Guys in Love With You worked well, aside from the too-loud drums. The closing track, 1980 World Champion, has annoying recorded voices mixed into it, just below intelligibility (at least at the volume level I used). Also maddening.
TrackList: Everybody Wants to Rule, Physical Cities, Life on Mars, Mint, Giant, Thriftstore Jewelry, Tom Sawyer, This Guy’s in Love With You, The World is the Same, 1980 World Champion.
– John Henry