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The Bad Plus: Great White Hypes?

When there comes meteoric critical acclaim and accolades there comes legions of haters. Last year, the Bad Plus took the music world by storm and surprise with their Columbia debut, These Are the Vistas, a masterstroke of head-banging, ballsy improvisational mayhem and grungy groove in which inventive reconstructions of alternative rock (Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”), new wave (Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”) and electronica (Aphex Twin’s “Flim”) tunes mingled with blistering, melodically cogent originals such as the misty “Everywhere You Turn” and the whimsical, high-school-prom stomp “1972 Bronze Medalist.”

Compared to most trio piano dates, These Are the Vistas sounds unapologetically loud, thanks to rock producer Tchad Blake’s amped-up sonic sheen and David King’s muscular drumming. Pianist Ethan Iverson, while he’s a gifted melodist and dynamic improviser, also displayed much brawn, sometimes hammering out thick, dissonant chords and knuckle-bleeding trills against Reid Anderson’s sinewy, driving bass lines. The album struck a chord with rock, pop and jazz fans and critics, becoming one of the most talked-about discs in 2003-a rare, commendable feat, considering the sagging sales of jazz CDs.

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