Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Bad Plus - But Is It Jazz

And now for something completely different.

I've been listening to The Bad Plus. They're not new, exactly. They've been around since 2003. That's pretty new relative to the rest of jazz/rock/pop/whatever.

And I guess it doesn't matter so much what they are. Jazz? Power trio? Fusion? Well, no, not fusion. By definition, fusion would have to include something electric, and The Bad Plus isn't that. It's just a traditional jazz trio of piano, bass and drums.

But there's nothing traditional about their music.

I have 3 Bad Plus CDs, two of which I bought last week. They are: “These Are The Vistas” and “Give” and “Suspicious Activity?” (The question mark is their's, not mine.)

I like them – I think. I can't recall hearing anything like them before. And how often does that happen?

I remember hearing Monk for the first time. I thought: “Wow, I know that's jazz,but it's unique.” That was three decades ago and I still believe it. I have searched near and far and I haven't found anyone yet who sounds like Monk, or even remotely reminds me of Monk.

The Bad Plus does. Not because their music is Monk-like. It is anything but. Still, it reminds me of Monk in its utter freshness. This is unlike any jazz trio I've heard before. Maybe that's because it's not jazz. It's not free jazz. Maybe this is more like a power trio – like the Jimi Hendrix Experience or Cream, but substitute a piano where Jimi or Clapton would play guitar.

The drummer is mad crazy. He reminds me of Keith Moon (the Who) or Carl Palmer (ELP). The bass is big and fat. And the piano is loud and fast and playing heavy block chords, kinda sorta like McCoy Tyner, but nothing like that. This is dense music, bomabastic music. There's very little melody per se, which usually ticks me off. But somehow, this works.

These aren't five-star CDs, really. I can't listen to them for long stretches. But for four or five or six tracks, they're really provocative.

I can't think of anything remotely like them. Can you?

No comments: