The Bad Plus rock Earshot as festival continues

The Bad Plus aren’t the kind of trio that swings, you’re much more likely to hear after-show comments like “That rocked!” or “Those guys are epic!”

Playing songs mostly from their upcoming as-yet-untitled new album, the trio used all of the acoustic advantages of Seattle’s Town Hall – having no problem filling the room with at-times pounding piano-bass-n-drums, at times so quiet as to have all of us in the audience holding our breath.

Piano as percussion intrument

Pianist Ethan Iverson combines simple, classically influenced melodies with a driving left hand that reminds us the piano is a percussion instrument, too.

Drummer Dave King goes beyond the standard techniques, at once all jittery around the kit, then pushing at his cymbals and drums with bare hands, scraping the tip of a drum stick across a cymbal (an unearthly tone perfect for the Halloween weekend), even brushing at the drum heads with his fingers.

Bassist Reid Anderson has developed an amazing tone on his upright bass and seems at times to be the heartbeat of the band, unpredictable yet solid.

No covers, no problem

The effect of the trio is suspenseful, playful, triumphant and always emotional.

The crowd, a mix of ages from high school kids to ol’ beboppers, peppered with costumes for the parties sure to follow the show around Capitol Hill, was kept on the edge of their seats. The audience was treated to a preview of many songs from their impending new release along with a handful of older favorites.

No one seemed disappointed at the lack of cover songs, which had become a staple at Bad Plus shows in the last decade. Only their version of Aphex Twin’s “Flim” (for the 2nd standing-ovation encore) was performed.

The new song “Wolf Out” was classic Bad Plus with a difficult to follow time signature, propulsive playing from all three, and a simple, hummable melody line. Another new one, “In Stitches” was epic – a slow building tune that began with King’s hand-drumming and built through extended solos from Anderson and Iverson to a mid-song jazz-rock party, finally drifting back the way they came, leaving all in attendance a little spent.

Back on stage in December

Earshot Jazz brought The Bad Plus for their Seattle debut at The Tractor Tavern years ago and it was wonderful to see them thrilling a near-capacity crowd at Town Hall, showing the increasing popularity of both the band and the non-profit.

Sadly, I won’t be in town to catch The Bad Plus playing more new compositions with the acclaimed Mark Morris Dance Group at Seattle’s Moore Theatre Dec. 1-3, but I hope to catch ’em playing their twist on Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” at Tacoma’s Broadway Center March 10th of next year.

Now, go out and enjoy more of the Earshot Jazz Festival, continuing through November 6th!

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