The Bad Plus

Wickedly clever iconoclasts the Bad Plus, returning to their Minnesota roots for their annual Christmas week residency at the Dakota, have veered dramatically once again on their new album, Never Stop. Eschewing their infamously deconstructed covers of rock, pop, and country hits, and going all instrumental after enlisting vocalist Wendy Lewis last time out on For All I Care, the trio opted for a collection of all originals. Residual splinters of the group's helixial, irony-laced forays into the realms of Yes, Pink Floyd, and Nirvana infiltrate the new tunes, along with eclectic echoes from the likes of Gershwin, Coltrane, Stravinsky, and probably Groucho Marx, as these impish provocateurs continue to reconcile serious jazz, indie rock, classical, and the avant garde. Never Stop's title track is urgent and nervous, Ethan Iverson's piano initially dancing over almost martial rhythms from drummer Dave King and bassist Reid Anderson before catching a melodic wave and triumphantly surfing its anthemic flow. "My Friend Metatron" is far stormier, Anderson's warm pulse the anchor for King's swirling maelstroms and Iverson's fractured chords. "Bill Hickman at Home" has a bluesy, woozy vibe, as if it were recorded near dawn in a juke joint on Tralfamador, Iverson's piano splashing silver droplets at Anderson's bass before staggering in like a post-modern Fats Waller. And "Super America" is like an alien gospel revival, complete with hand clapping, around ye olde gas pump. Audacious, ambitious, yet accessible as all get out, the Bad Plus's delirious twists and tangents are the work of an impressively cohesive band who know exactly where they're going and are giving exultant audiences the ride of their lives. (Photo by Cameron Wittig)
Mondays, Saturdays, Sundays, 7 & 9:30 p.m. Starts: Dec. 25. Continues through Dec. 27, 2010

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