Bad Plus | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bad Plus 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

The recent Suspicious Activity? (Columbia) opens with "Prehensile Dream," a slowly intensifying ballad whose pretty, introspective melody wouldn't sound out of place on a Radiohead album. But the song actually goes a long way toward refuting the accusation that this jazz trio has been cynically targeting younger, rock-oriented audiences. Bassist Reid Anderson wrote it for his 2000 album, The Vastness of Space (Fresh Sound/New Talent), a quintet effort; if anything the earlier version sounds more "rock" than the new one, and the differences between the two make it clear to me that the Bad Plus comes by its aesthetic choices honestly. A bigger problem might be engineer Tchad Blake: back behind the boards with the group for the third time, he adds an artificial chunkiness to Anderson's bass, and his insistence on setting David King's walloping drums high in the mix is getting tedious. But the group is still playing jazz at a high level, even if the only traditionally jazzy tunes are the pair of knotty originals written by pianist Ethan Iverson. (His "Let Our Garden Grow" is based on the chords of "I Got Rhythm" but sounds like Herbie Nichols jamming with a drum kit tumbling down a flight of stairs.) King, who started out playing in a string of Minneapolis rock bands, strays farthest from jazz convention; his stomping "Anthem for the Earnest" comes off like a Red Bull-fueled redux of latter-day Police tunes, and that's not a pretty picture. But the shifts in Anderson's melancholy and complex compositions feel utterly organic; the three players move subtly in and out of the background and trade off rhythmic and melodic roles as well. In a break from Bad Plus tradition, Suspicious Activity? contains only one cover, a free-jazz demolition of Vangelis's theme from Chariots of Fire, but it's a welcome change; I've enjoyed the band's transformations of pop hits, but obviously they can take care of their songwriting needs in-house. Without Blake's electronic enhancements, they sound even better live. A quartet led by inventive southern saxophonist John Ellis opens. Fri 2/10, 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $25, $21 seniors and kids. All ages.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
Bus Stop Athenaeum Theatre
July 19
Performing Arts
20,000 Leagues Under the Seas Lookingglass Theatre Company
June 06

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories