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The Bad Plus Joshua Redman: The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

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When the Bad Plus made its major-label debut in 2003, it was possible to accept it as a paradigm shift in piano-trio language. TBP has seen plenty of copycats since, but in the end its graces were too singular, its confluences too rare, to be ingested as a touchstone.

Because of this distinctiveness, the band’s past collaborations have seen it loosen its identity and seek out common ground like good jazz musicians do. With guitarist Bill Frisell, for instance, the trio found shared space mostly in the music of lodestar drummer Paul Motian. The Bad Plus Joshua Redman is something different, though-almost weirdly seamless in its integration. Hyperbole aside, it sounds as if the saxophonist has been there all along.

Not surprisingly, this is a more lived-in arrangement, with sparse road time extending back to 2011. (It’s also worth noting that Redman has sharpened his chops in democratic, pop-inflected acoustic jazz with the supergroup James Farm.) The album includes nine tracks, including two compositions apiece by Redman and pianist Ethan Iverson, four by bassist Reid Anderson (including two pieces previously recorded by TBP) and one by drummer Dave King. There are none of TBP’s calling-card deconstructions of pop hits, and you don’t miss them; the original music is excellent and wide-ranging and deftly arranged, in a way that underscores both the trio’s affinity for composition and the fresher, more noticeably improvised terrain that Redman’s presence opens up.

More than anything, this works because of shared dynamic tact. When the Romantic flourishes gather into a mounting, cathartic intensity, as on “Silence Is the Question,” the temperament of all participants crests with precise collectivity. On uptempo fun characteristic of TBP, like “County Seat,” Redman rallies. When a cool, clean melody line is needed, as on “As This Moment Slips Away” or “Dirty Blonde,” Redman delivers with the requisite dryness. On “Faith Through Error,” which evokes minimalism before rocketing into free improvisation, neither half’s past seems obvious.

Originally Published