Had the late Frank Zappa ever branched out into acoustic jazz, it just might sound like The Bad Plus.
The Minneapolis-formed trio graced the stage Saturday night at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild's Jazz Hall to deliver a seven-tune set plus encore of shifting moods, timbres, meters and styles, often during the same number.
Though the band's heart is in jazz, it certainly doesn't stay there, branching into almost-classical and even rocking out from time to time. The audience clearly loved what it was doing, evidenced by the long ovations after most tunes. I certainly had an adventure.
The show opened with bassist Reid Anderson's originally hymn-like, then martial "Pound for Pound," with pianist Ethan Iverson playing solo at one point -- the only time I recall him doing that during the entire show -- and drummer Dave King getting to bash a bit at the end. The drummer's offbeat "Wolf Out," which appeared to be in 10/8 meter, followed, Mr. Anderson laying down an ostinato and the tune modulating several times to an abrupt ending.
Probably the best tune was Mr. Iverson's "Re-Elect That" -- not a political statement, he noted later -- which moved from almost a delicacy thanks to Mr. King's brush work to the closest thing a jazz piano trio will get to hard rock. Speaking of which, that's just what it offered at the end with the encore of Mr. Anderson's "Never Stop," featuring throbbing quarter-note bass lines.
If I do have a criticism of the performance, it's that the three members, with the possible exception of Mr. King, didn't display that much individual virtuosity during the show; however, Mr. Anderson made it clear a couple of weeks ago that The Bad Plus was a band project, so perhaps that's not what it's about. It also would have nice to have heard one or two of the covers that it has recorded over its dozen-year career.musicreviews
Rick Nowlin: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3871. First Published February 4, 2013 8:00 PM