Thursday August 25, 2016
From The Observer
The Bad Plus Tests Jazz’s Boundaries by Exploding the Art of the Cover Song
By: Jim Farber
The latest album from The Bad Plus could double as an episode of Name That Tune! Play it for your friends, without revealing the song titles, and minutes could click by before anyone guesses the well-known melody being covered.
“Traditionally, the idea of a cover version is that you emulate the original,” said Bad Plus bassist Reid Anderson. “For us, it’s more a process of deconstruction. We’re thinking, ‘What else is there in this song? What can we find in here?’ ”
On It’s Hard, the 11th work by this avant-jazz trio, they discover melodic and rhythmic possibilities you’d never guess in well-known songs by artists like Prince (The Beautiful Ones”), Johnny Cash (“I Walk The Line”) and—no lie!—Barry Manilow (“Mandy”). They also provide their own sonic comments on cultish pieces by Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on The Radio.
The New York-based trio—which brings together pianist Ethan Iverson, drummer Dave King and Anderson on acoustic bass—has written scores of original pieces since forming in 2000. But they first snagged media attention by releasing transformative takes on songs everyone thought they knew by heart. Their 2001, self-titled debut album opened with a free-jazz creep through ABBA’s “Knowing You, Knowing Me.” The album also included a fun house mirror reflection of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
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