Concert review: The Bad Plus (12/31/2013)


Welcome to my ten-days-too-late review of the concert I saw on New Year’s Eve! My memory’s gone a bit fuzzy, so it’ll be short, but it was such a great show that I didn’t want to skip the review entirely. The show was the Bad Plus’s annual New Year’s show at the Village Vanguard. The Bad Plus (Ethan Iverson – piano; Reid Anderson – bass; David King – drums), originating in Minneapolis, have been around for a little over ten years and have eight studio albums to date.

I decided to go to this show on fairly short notice after some other concert plans fell through, and I think I must have gotten one of the last tickets as it was sold out soon afterward. Figuring it would be tough competition for good seats, I got in line outside early enough to snag one of the four front row seats when they let us in. I had about an hour to kill before the actual show started, which I mostly spent waiting for a truly terrible cocktail. But when the music started, I was able to forget about my drink and just enjoy myself. I was seated in a perfect spot and the music was excellent and a lot of fun.

I’ve naturally forgotten all of the song titles at this point, but they were playing a significant amount of brand new material which was consistently outstanding. At one point the bass player made a joke along the lines of “That’s right, you paid hundreds of dollars to see us tonight and we’re playing material we’ve barely rehearsed!” Some of them they’d only played for the first time during that night’s sound check. I guess that’s the sign of a great jazz band – so much of the strength of the music comes from the improvisational skills of the players that even a relatively unrehearsed piece can be fantastic.

I sneaked a quick video during the second set, figuring that since the Village Vanguard had managed to run out of sparkling wine by 10PM on New Year’s Eve, they owed me a favor:

They’re coming to Boston in a couple of weeks and I might just have to go see them again, although the venue is in such an annoying location to get to via public transit I haven’t quite convinced myself. At any rate, aside from the Boston dates they’re also playing some other dates in U.S. and Europe, which you can see by clicking here.

BONUS MATERIAL: I posted another short video from this show on the Concert Manic Facebook page. (FYI: All the cool kids are following us on Facebook. Just saying.)

Today I’m heading off to the last couple of nights of Winter Jazz Fest, where I will gorge myself on all sorts of great music and hopefully nothing terrible will happen (…I’m having one of those weeks. Seriously, how often do you get into a phone conversation where someone says “Wait, I didn’t catch that – did you say you were HACKED or ATTACKED?” and your answer is “Both. On the same afternoon.”). I’m traveling light and might not bring the full complement of recording gear, but hopefully I will have at the very least some fun photos and stories to share next week.

Concert Review: The Bad Plus playing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (2/15/2013)

I went to see another new-to-me band at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art this week – The Bad Plus, a jazz trio made up of Reid Anderson (bass), Ethan Iverson (piano), and Dave King (drums). The group is known for doing oddball covers of iconic music (click here to hear their cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” for example) and I was intrigued to see that they had decided to take on Stravinsky’s (in)famous “Rite of Spring.”

They began the show with a very dramatic opening – musically, I could hear a thudding heartbeat, and then a spare, spacious solo piano playing a repeating theme, growing more and more complex over the course of several minutes. Visually, we saw a darkened stage, the musicians only seen as silhouettes, dark curtains covering all the windows. There was a translucent curtain between the audience and the band, on which they screened abstract videos. (Due to the translucent nature of the curtain, you could also see the video projected on the back wall behind the band.)


Around the five-minute mark, the band exploded into full power, the drums crashing in, and they also raised the curtain and started turning some lights on. The overall effect was (more…)