Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

The Bad Plus: It’s Hard

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

After a few albums of original music and a reworking of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” the Bad Plus returns to its roots on It’s Hard. The trio, which mainstreamed the practice of turning modern pop songs into modern jazz, covers a wide swath of stylistic terrain on these 11 tracks, from Johnny Cash to Kraftwerk to TV on the Radio. Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King bring the music back to the manner in which they broke through with their wonderfully awkward cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in 2003. There’s a lot of space in these performances and no swing at all. Patience abounds.

King plays with enormous restraint, in half-time, on the Cyndi Lauper hit “Time After Time,” while Anderson invents a new bassline for the song and Iverson plays an imagined harmony. They go almost-almost-country on Cash’s “I Walk the Line,” but the stutter-step rhythm makes it clear that this version is about creative destruction. Arrhythmia similarly guides an unusual but reverent cover of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones,” on which Iverson plays two discordant patterns simultaneously in the bridge. Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers” is twisted unrecognizably until the chorus arrives, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” becomes completely chaotic. On the other hand, techno pioneer Kraftwerk’s fabulously monotonous “The Robots” somehow sounds perfectly natural in the hands of a piano trio.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published