What: The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman
Where: McPherson Playhouse
When: Tuesday night
The wonderful jazz trio, the Bad Plus, opened their show Tuesday night with a song titled Love is the Answer.
It began with pianist Ethan Iverson playing sombre, elegiac chords on the grand piano. Saxophonist Joshua Redman, who joined the Bad Plus for this tour, offered stately, drawn out notes.
Iverson — a bald, bespectacled man in a suit — offered piano solos that were minimalist, somehow reminiscent of Erik Satie. As Love is the Answer progressed, Reid Anderson provided an extended double-bass workout, his playing fluid yet substantial (the word “beefy” comes to mind). Here Redman held back, his runs effortless, like a mountain stream, no vibrato, no “young lion” hijinks, just a musician who fits into this tight-knit band like a force of nature.
The song Faith Through Error followed. The piece began with Redman’s quick, descending sax figures, with frenetic bass and cymbal accompaniment. Eventually, Iverson played some staggered Thelonius Monk-style riffs. The song built into a classic Bad Plus crescendo, driven by Dave King’s sharp drumming, which cut through the joyous rabble like a razor blade.
A bit of background. The Bad Plus are a New York jazz trio whose sound is leavened with classical/new-music/rock flourishes. Early on, the group scored notoriety by interpreting songs by Nirvana (Smells Like Teen Spirit), Abba (Knowing Me, Knowing You) and Blondie (Heart of Glass).
Redman, the son of famed jazz musician Dewey Redman, is a gifted saxophonist who became a star/media darling in the early 1990s. Prodigiously gifted, deeply rooted (more so than the Bad Plus) in the jazz tradition, Redman teamed with the Bad Plus only recently. After a string of dates at New York’s Blue Note jazz club, the foursome collaborated on an album, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman.
Sometimes cool and abstract, sometimes exciting and visceral, their collaboration furthers the Bad Plus tradition of combining elements of jazz, classical and the sort of left-field shenanigans that’s difficult to classify. This is wonderful music, and experiencing it in concert is sheer pleasure.
Opening act Kneebody also impressed with their eclectic set.
These young New Yorkers offered a polyrhythmic mélange of jazz, rock, electro-pop and just out-there experimentalism. The combo sounded a bit hesitant at first, but they soon came to boil, offering everything from Zappa-like excursions to atonal wonks, squawks, be-bop sax solos and dreamy planes of sound. Not for the faint-hearted, rewarding for the open-minded listener.