Spring is here. And The Bad Plus have a record out. Perfect timing for releasing their interpretation of Stravinsky’s modern masterpiece, The Rite of Spring.
That one of the most innovative jazz groups of the early 21st century is taking on one of the most innovative musical statements of the 20th century should not be surprising. Anyone who has seen The Bad Plus live knows that their most aggressive acts of deconstruction are always waged with a peaceful agenda and an ingrained loyalty to the original mood of a piece. This time around, that loyalty shines in minute detail, minus the deconstruction. At this point in their nearly 15-year-old journey, the band has amply demonstrated they are equally good at transcending the most unlikely material and writing music that feels immediately and distinctively theirs.
I hope their take on Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring will cause the same rioting as the original did at its Paris première back in 1913. Consider this: a seminal jazz trio consisting of piano, acoustic bass and drums perform their rendition of a piece that a hundred years down the line hasn’t lost its revolutionary appeal.
As pianist Ethan Iverson explained a while ago on his excellent blog DTM (like to drop that every chance I get), the three musicians were initially awed by the task. Who wouldn’t be? The amazing thing about this album is that it sounds so much like the original masterpiece and so much like a Bad Plus album. In fact, it almost feels like Stravinsky wrote a trio score of The Rite. Of course, they are inevitable adjustments to make in the pared-down instrumentation of a trio, the drums being a major one. Taut, pulsing, swinging, this literal interpretation of a classical masterpiece is a both reverential and transformative tribute to the original orchestration.
The reviews have flooded the Internet in the last few days, with detailed and insightful commentary. So I might as well back off here and let you read them and enjoy the music.
To think that these guys are cranking out original compositions regularly and still finding the time to interpret Stravinsky is pretty confounding. But what can you do? They are The Bad-ass Plus. They will always surprise us.
Listen to the album on NRR here
Or live here
PS: The Plus have tackled Stravinsky previously. Check out their take on Variation d’Apollon from their album For All I Care.