BEST LIVE ARTIST - 2003
When Aphex Twin wants to evoke the uneasy nature of humans living in an industrial world, he lets the machines do the singing. When the Bad Plus want to evoke the humanity in Aphex Twin's mechanisms, they let people play like machines. As the jazz trio performs a cover of "Flim," Dave King holds a boxing match with his drum kit, keeping time with the original song's electronically produced, speed-of-light percussion with a certain poetry and precision...and without using drumsticks. (Walkie-talkie antennae, a tiny megaphone vox, and a jingling plastic toy are a few of his weapons of choice.) Pianist Ethan Iverson transforms calculator-complex ostinatos and spontaneously dissonant arrangements into wild explorations of free jazz that seem to surprise even him, as if he had taken his piano apart and is quickly figuring out how to build it again. And bassist Reid Anderson provides the centripetal force between them, swaying between dense, classical phrases and erratic, bee-stung dartings like an anchored ship nodding in the fog. Together, the three musicians provide a rockist response to jazz complacency: Deconstructing songs by Blondie, Nirvana, ABBA, and Black Sabbath, while also performing their own playful originals, they take the youthful radicalism of groups like the Nommonsemble and the Mat Maneri Quartet and use it as a reason to flash devil horns at the jazzbo establishment. And after hearing their defiant version of "Iron Man," it's all you can do not to flash 'em back.