Thursday, March 20, 2003

Review - These Are the Vistas

Artist: The Bad Plus

Posted on Thu, Mar 20, 2003 at 4:00 AM

It's unfortunate that contemporary, innovative jazz has fallen to such a point that a group like The Bad Plus must rely on alt-culture irony to try and get their major-label debut noticed. Surely that's the only reason they included "deconstructions" of not just "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Heart of Glass" but also "Flim" by Aphex Twin on "These Are the Vistas." I guess you might be able to posit the notion that Nirvana and Blondie are as much a part of the new pop canon as Rodgers & Hammerstein were, but Aphex Twin? That's just going for some unnecessary cool points; the inclusion of these three songs severely distracts (not detracts) from the overall excellence of a fine album. How's that for irony? Produced with a rich clarity by Tchad Blake, "These Are the Vistas" displays this bass-piano-drum trio's cheeky maturity and range. Tearing off bluesy chunks in "Keep the Bugs Off Your Glass and the Bears Off Your Ass" or wending through the melodic modalism of "1972 Bronze Medalist," The Bad Plus certainly have no need for cheap cover-song gimmickry. Though pianist Ethan Iverson routinely stands out among the three with his thick, fluid playing, the majority of these tracks are driven by the thumping rhythm section of drummer David King and bassist Reid Anderson. The Bad Plus fuse Midwestern solidity (two of the three are from Minnesota, the other's from Wisconsin) and New York smart-ass (the trio's base of operations) into an impressive mix that stands well on its own.

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