Ethan Iverson: piano; Reid Anderson: bass; Dave King: Drums.
The genius of the ingenious New York city-based jazz trio The Bad Plus can be heard again on their twelfth studio album entitled “It’s Hard”, a collection of covers that originally inhabited the pop, rock, country, jazz, and electronic music universes.
Its concept contrasts with the last year’s mandatory album, “The Bad Plus Joshua Redman”, whose tracks were composed by the members of the quartet.
The album opens with “Maps”, an original song by the American indie rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which is treated with a relentless musical hammering produced by bass-drums movements, getting more chaotic as it moves forward without losing any of its melodic sense.
Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers”, a massive hit in the UK in 1971, is rhythmically well crafted and gains a newfound perspective. Yet, its melody remains completely recognizable.
In terms of pop tunes, Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” is a pure delight, with Anderson’s bass ‘singing’ the falsetto part of the original, complemented with the crescendo of Iverson’s piano, which builds up an arresting polyphony at some point. In turn, Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time” is given a downtempo accentuation by King’s sparse beats while “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, a hit from the mid 80's by the Australian pop band Crowded House, plunges into real dreamy tones as it flows as a ballad.
The jazz is also well represented by a couple of tunes that carry a graceful musicality. The first one, “Alfombra Magica”, authored by the saxophonist Bill McHenry, evinces classical cadences. The second is Ornette Coleman’s “Broken Shadows”, which proceeds calmly and softly as in a morning sunrise.
Definitely a highlight, “The Robot”, a 1978 song composed by the German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, pulses with a forceful energy, inviting us to a robotic dance.
All the ten jazz renditions boast a relevant freshness through the treatments they were subjected to, proving The Bad Plus as one of the most stylish and versatile piano trios of our times.
01 – Maps ► 06 – The Beautiful Ones ► 10 – The Robots