Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Bad Plus - It's Hard (2016)

The Bad Plus have cemented their place as an original music ensemble. Except for their interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring — their last four albums focused almost exclusively on original compositions. It’s Hard, however, will mark The Bad Plus’ return to an aspect of their roots, the very thing that first made The Bad Plus famous: the deconstruction of songs from the Pop/Rock and R&B worlds.

The Bad Plus' new album, It's Hard, is all covers. There's no particular overarching aesthetic to the selection. It encompasses alternative rock from the '00s (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio); hits of the '80s (Prince, Cyndi Lauper, Peter Gabriel, Crowded House); a piece from free-jazz hero Ornette Coleman and one from a spiritual descendant of saxophone-blowing and melody-shaping, Bill McHenry; and some other unlikely idiosyncrasies (Barry Manilow). Neither is there a formula for approaching these songs. Some seem like acts of reinvention, disassembly and re-engineering (Kraftwerk sans motorik beat); others amplify the existing energy the best a mischievous acoustic piano trio can (Johnny Cash as a shuffle after too many drinks).

These covers, like those of 2003 or any since, are not "ironic" or "novelty." Somewhat naive, maybe; impishly tweaked, likely. But they're not high art looking down upon low art, or lifting it into its realm. If anything, Anderson, King and Iverson are pop agnostics who offer some fundamental respect toward each song, its creator and its potential. Their project always seemed to be foremost about applying an original dialect to any song, whether generated internally or absorbed, processed and rearranged. In that light, It's Hard feels like an intensive self-examination: a long-running band testing its powers of interpretation with whatever comes to mind. And it tends to be amusing.

1. Maps (Karen Lee Orzolek, Brian Chase, Nick Zinner)
2. Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel)
3. Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper, Rob Hyman)
4. I Walk The Line (Johnny Cash)
5. Alfombra Magica (Bill McHenry)
6. The Beautiful Ones (Prince)
7. Don't Dream It's Over (Neil Finn)
8. Staring At The Sun (Tunde Adebimpe, David Sitek)
9. Mandy (Richard Kerr, Scott English)
10. The Robots (Ralf Hutter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos)
11. Broken Shadows (Ornette Coleman)

Produced by The Bad Plus
Recorded by Pete Rende at Brooklyn Recording,
Brooklyn, NY, April 12th-14th, 2016


August 2016
30 Kiev / Ukraine -- Atlas Club

September 2016
03 Chicago, IL -- Millenium Park*
17 Monterey, CA -- Monterey Jazz Festival**

October 2016
01 Leipzig, DEU -- 40. Leipziger Jazztage/Schauspielhaus
03 Schiltigheim, FRA -- Le Cheval Blanc
04 Nantes, FRA -- Salle Paul Fort
05 Gent, BEL -- De Bijloke
06 Lugano, CHE -- Radio RSI - Studio 2
07 Brussels, BEL -- Flagey - Studio 4
10 Berlin, DEU -- A-Trane
11 Saint Jean de Vedas, FRA -- Le Chai du Terral
12 Singen, DEU -- Kulturzentrum Gems
14 Leibnitz, AUT -- LeibnitzKULT
17 Amsterdam, NLD -- Bimhuis

Bojan Z & Nils Wogram - Housewarming (2016) nWog Records