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Bad Plus: These Are the Vistas

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To many in the jazz-aware public, the Bad Plus arrives as a bolt out of the blue-galvanic, improbable, discrete, unforeseen. These Are the Vistas doesn’t technically mark the trio’s recorded debut, but as a Columbia release, it surely opens the gates and raises the stakes. This is, after all, a group accustomed to life on the fringe. (“The Bad Plus at the Village Vanguard,” pianist Ethan Iverson marveled, during the group’s pivotal one-night stand there last June. “I can’t believe we’re here.”)

Survey these vistas, or scrutinize them, and you’ll find ample justification for both the club date and the record deal. Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King have blazed a new trail for the piano trio-or, more modestly and perhaps more accurately, they’ve diverged from the beaten path and ranged freely on common ground. Their findings cover a wide swath of styles, and vary greatly in tenor, timbre and tone. So we get a segue from “Big Eater,” the splashy odd-metered workout that opens the disc, to a countrified ditty called “Keep the Bugs Off Your Glass and the Bears Off Your Ass.” In a similar vein, the bone-dry blues dirge of “Guilty” tumbles into the brazenly guilt-free harmolodic catharsis of “Boo-Wah.” This all might seem like mere eclecticism if it weren’t for the vigor of each performance. The band may assume many shapes, but their basic sound and fury remain consistent from track to track.

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