The Bad Plus Perform a Re-Imagined Rite of Spring

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Wednesday March 28, 2012


The Bad Plus Perform a Re-Imagined Rite of Spring
By Luke Z. Fenchel

Here’s how Alex Ross, author of the indispensable account of twentieth century classical music described ‘Dance of the Earth,’ the first part of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which will be performed by the power jazz trio The Bad Plus on Friday, March 30 at Cornell University’s Bailey Hall: ‘The Rite ‘¦ prophesized a new type of popular art ‘” low-down yet sophisticated, smartly savage, style and muscle intertwined.’ Ross continues, ‘For much of the nineteenth century, music had been a theater of the mind; now composers would create a music of the body. Melodies would follow the patterns of speech; rhythms would match the energy of dance; musical forms would be more concise and clear; sonorities would have the hardness of life as it is really lived.’

And though almost a century later (the Paris premiere of Rite of Spring occurred on an unusually hot day May 29, 1913) the most apt inheritors might be Bjork, Radiohead, or Kanye West, there’s a case to be made for folks like Dave Douglas, Brad Mehldau, Jason Moran, and The Bad Plus.

Like Dave Douglas, Brad Mehldau, and Jason Moran, The Bad Plus reach from outside of jazz material, incorporating pop, rock and avant-garde into their repertoire. But unlike those other jazz musicians, who have all visited Cornell University in the past few years, and who often jazzify material from other genres, The Bad Plus makes the material their own.

Bass player Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King have known each other since they were teenagers, but went their separate ways for several years. They met pianist Ethan Iverson in 1989 ‘” he was Mark Morris’ music director ‘” and recorded their first eponymous album in 1990. For the past ten years the group has created an uncompromising body of work by shattering musical convention. They rose to fame covering Nirvana, Abba, and Rodgers & Hart on the same album, but have recently incorporated contemporary classical music like Stravinsky and Gyorgy Ligeti into their records.

While the bulk of their output has been originals, they have famously deconstructed covers in the pop, rock, electronic, and classical idioms. Their belief in a band ethos and ‘avant-garde populism’ has placed them at the forefront of a new instrumental music movement, resulting in ever-growing audiences throughout the world. And though their most recent record, the impressive road show ‘Never Stop,’ consisted entirely of originals, the group will perform a commissioned piece just in time for spring.

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