The Bad Plus' 11th studio recording sees the leaderless trio - bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson, and drummer David King - returning to the distinctive deconstruction of pop forms that drew their first international attention almost two decades ago. Recorded this past April at NYC's Brooklyn Recording with longtime engineer Pete Rende (Joshua Redman, Bill McHenry), the album spans both era and inspiration as The Bad Plus offer new perspectives on classic songs from the 1970s to the 2010s.
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While the four most recent Bad Plus albums have focused on predominantly original material, IT'S HARDshowcases the leaderless trio's inimitable gift for intrepid and audacious interpretation. A lyrical take on Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over" stands alongside the motorik futurism of Kraftwerk's "The Robots" and the post-millennial indie creativity of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Maps" and TV On The Radio's "Staring At The Sun," altering pop, prog rock, country, psychedelia, and more via an unmatched gift for wit, harmonic innovation and rhythmic brilliance. Their expressive reading of Prince's "The Beautiful Ones" - coincidentally recorded a month before the legend's untimely death - is a potent tribute to a figure that loomed large in the lives of these fellow Minnesotan musicians.
"After several years of focusing largely on original music," says Dave King, "we thought it would be creatively challenging to return to arranging music that's not ours. We chose the songs together, arranged them together and got in the garage and played them together. It's a distinctly different process than anything else we do and we feel that we do it uniquely enough to take another stab at it after 13 albums and 16 years together."
IT'S HARD also features new renditions of such pieces as Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" (interpreted in 1985 by Miles Davis), Bill McHenry's "Alfombra Mágica" (first recorded in 2002 by the Bill McHenry Quartet Featuring Paul Motian and bassist Reid Anderson), and Ornette Coleman's milestone "Broken Shadows."
"There's no precise algorithm as to what works or not," says Ethan Iverson. "The song must have meaning and our take must have a clear relationship to the original version. Our concept is less like Miles Davis' 'just play the tune like jazz' approach than that of Ahmad Jamal, Ellington or Monk, all of whom chose covers with drama and theatre in mind. Ironically one of our new covers, 'Time After Time,' is associated with Miles - and our versions couldn't be more different!We didn't just add some jazz to rock; the songs on IT'S HARD are amplified in specific ways unique to the material and the band."
"We've always made it a point in our music to cut a wide swath, both stylistically and emotionally," says Reid Anderson, "and the songs on IT'S HARD are a reflection of that principal. Each song is an opportunity to try something unique, and every arrangement and performance represents the combined perspective of three very different personalities - which is the essence of the sound of The Bad Plus."
The Bad Plus has spent nearly two decades expanding the parameters of what is expected of a piano-bass-drums trio. The genre-smashing band has crafted a repertoire of innovative original music, along with a daring series of iconoclastic covers spanning such diverse artists as Nirvana and Neil Young, Aphex Twin and Ornette Coleman. No matter the material, The Bad Plus continue to mine the very same aesthetic principles that inspired their inception, exploring myriad musical forms through the unparalleled interpretive power of jazz.
IT'S HARD was produced by The Bad Plus between April 12th-14th, 2016 at Brooklyn Recording in Brooklyn, New York alongside engineer/mixer Pete Rende.
THE BAD PLUS – IT'S HARD
(OKeh/Sony Music Entertainment)
Release Date: August 26, 2016
1. Maps (Karen Lee Orzolek, Brian Chase, Nick Zinner)
2. Games Without Frontiers (Peter Gabriel)
3. Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper, Rob Hyman)
4. I Walk The Line (Johnny Cash)
5. Alfombra Magica (Bill McHenry)
6. The Beautiful Ones (Prince)
7. Don't Dream It's Over (Neil Finn)
8. Staring At The Sun (Tunde Adebimpe, David Sitek)
9. Mandy (Richard Kerr, Scott English)
10. The Robots (Ralf Hutter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos)
11. Broken Shadows (Ornette Coleman)
Produced by The Bad Plus
Recorded by Pete Rende at Brooklyn Recording,
Brooklyn, NY, April 12th-14th, 2016
For more information, please see www.thebadplus.com