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The Bad Plus plays the unexpected in Bend

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Friday January 20, 2017

From The Bulletin

The Bad Plus plays the unexpected in Bend
By: Brian McElhiney

After nearly two decades, there’s a pretty standard set of accolades music-industry-geek types use to describe piano-bass-drums jazz trio The Bad Plus.

Usually it’s “boundary pushing,” or “genre blending,” or some variation on that theme. And usually it’s due to the band’s esoteric takes on popular music from Nirvana to ABBA. In 2000, when the band formed, a jazz trio playing a rhythmically chopped and screwed version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” felt like a novelty. Today, while it’s more common to see jazz bands tackling pop music (thanks in no small part to The Bad Plus’ example), the move still feels unexpected.

The Minneapolis-formed, New York City-based trio deserves the accolades for its musical deconstructions, absolutely. Last year’s “It’s Hard” was a return to just that, and got plenty of focus Friday night at Jazz at the Oxford, the first of three sets the band played as part of the series.

But the performance also proved (if proof was needed) that the band has much more to offer to the jazz continuum than just “covers.” More than half the 11-song set was dedicated to original compositions by drummer Dave King, pianist Ethan Iverson and bassist Reid Anderson, and on these songs the band unleashed its full power.

Anderson’s “Everywhere You Turn” kicked things off shortly after 8 p.m., highlighted by Iverson’s haunting piano lines and shifting chords. The musicians had fully locked into each other by the next song, King’s “My Friend Metatron,” driving home the tune’s complex rhythms.

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