February 2006

The Bad Plus
Presented by Toronto Downtown Jazz & GMP Productions
February 8, 2006RevivalToronto
Method to the Madness
by Sue Bullas with photos by Roger Humbert
Timing is everything but you often notice the cues. Despite tempo changes and shifting of music movements, The Bad Plus has a seamless quality. So much so that the first moment of silence when the music has stopped — stopped dead — is almost like a note at the end of the piece. Then the crowd explodes.

I never have burst out laughing at a jazz concert, The Bad Plus changed that. The witty, one sided repartee of our host pianist Ethan Iverson, who played brilliantly despite his cramped space, has a way with a story. The entertaining antics of drummer David King who could be a hairless version of Animal (The Muppets) has a good time and who knows if he’s even aware of our presence. He is the only drummer I’ve ever encountered with a cooking pot in his kit. Reid Anderson, the bass player also seems to be in his own zone. But somehow these worlds collide into a kaleidoscope of jazz.

The sound is fresh, it’s all over the place and it is incredible, one song combining the simple melodies of the Police with an almost Charlie Brown-like bridge. Their original pieces are unique, diverse and have intriguing names such as “The Empire Strikes Backwards” (which is ‘kind of about America’) or “Anthem for the Earnest”. “Rhinoceros is My Profession” is the story of a bull fighting matador who has just slain the bull, but while he is enjoying his victory, a rhinoceros is let out a side door to take the matador on. The Bad Plus unanimously agrees: bull fighting is wrong on all levels.

This band is a tight unit, yet they capture the improvisational, free, creative spirit that is the essence of jazz. It makes me wonder how rehearsed these pieces are when they seem so in the moment. The band admits they like Rush and SCTV, “so they can’t be all bad”. Or maybe they are at the other end of the scale: Bad Plus.

Ethan Iverson

Reid Anderson

David King
Openers: The Worst Pop Band Ever

These were the traditionalists of the night if you can call them that. Happy to open for the ‘Mighty’ Bad Plus these guys were great attracting their local fan base en force. “Lemme Caution” and “Crowy or Growy” started the night and an amazing version of Bijork’s “Kingdom of One” ended a great set. The bobbing sax player Chris Gale (in order to give bass player Drew Birston some room and much deserved attention) seemed to be the ‘voice’ of this group. I loved the incorporation of Leo Shia on turn tables and Dafydd Hughes and his blow tube Melodica and keyboards. Leader Tim Shia kept the centre though sometimes his volume increased and increased until the other instruments were almost drowning. It was great!

We welcome your comments and feedback
Sue Bullas
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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