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The Bad Plus on NPR's JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater

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Thursday February 12, 2009

The Bad Plus, Spanish Harlem Orchestra: The Shape Of Jazz To Come

JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater, February 12, 2009
By Becca Pulliam

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The Bad Plus came together in the early 2000s, offering up a jazz spin on works by Nirvana, Aphex Twin and other non-jazz sources. Since then, each of the trio’s records has further explored the group’s self-styled universe, while also demonstrating its commitment to the art of the trio.

Here, The Bad Plus opens with “Tom Sawyer,” a 1981 hit for Rush, and closes with Nirvana’s 1991 classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” In between, drummer Dave King and bassist Reid Anderson provide the compositions, and pianist Ethan Iverson introduces the pieces in his own offbeat way.

Iverson says that Tom Sawyer is a hero because he’s a modern-day warrior who operates according to his own moral compass, while Metatron — in the song “My Friend Metatron” — is an archangel with whom you’d better not mess.

Next at McMenamin’s, the piano, bass and drums are replaced by a 10-piece Latin band and three vocalists, and the house turns over for the Spanish Harlem Orchestra. The SHO’s latest album is United We Swing, while the ensemble won a Grammy for its record Across 110th Street.

Throughout the concert, dancers who drove to Portland from Vancouver worked out on “Ahora Si!” proving that salsa music is alive and well. Meanwhile, leader Oscar Hernandez followed with his own composition, “Rumba Urbana.” Multi-instrumentalist Mitch Frohman was one of the concert’s highlights, showing his prowess by jumping between baritone sax and flute. Finally, Dee Dee Bridgewater loves a slow dance, so we close with a bolero.



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