The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman played their first show last night since releasing the joint LP The Bad Plus Joshua Redman. Don’t let the title be any indication of their creativity; Over an hour and a half, the quartet displayed virtuosic musicianship and a knack for experimentation.
Kicking things off with “Beauty Has It Hard” off, the group set the mood. The slow, rocking track ushered in the latecomers and filled the room with a rich sound, starting subtle and pleasant and moving into the more raucous style that Bad Plus is known for.
After the palate cleanser, the group moved into “2PM” off their 2010 album Never Stop. Although composed by pianist Ethan Iverson, the real spectacle was David King’s impulsive drumming. He plays the kit like it is his way of breathing or circulating blood. I guess in some ways it is, both literally and figuratively.
“As The Moment Slips Away,” the opener off The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, followed. The hip hop rhythm allowed for some incredible saxophone work by the one and only Redman, who finds his place amongst the trio relatively effortlessly. His style of slow-building tension has landed him roles with everyone from Umphrey’s McGee to The Rolling Stones to Herbie Hancock.
As they went on, the group played tracks written by each of the band members, noting them to the audience as a way to define the leaderless pack. “Lack The Faith But Not The Wine” and “Thrift Store Jewelry” were particularly memorable before ending the show with the epic “Silence is the Question.”
The 13-minute set closer was a summary of the project as a whole. It’s a blending of beautiful harmonies and carefully placed dissonance, a prime execution of creating and releasing tension, what Phil Lesh once called, “the lifeblood of music.” It’s a mountainous affair that gently guides you to the peak for that moment of ecstasy.