The Bad Plus - Made Possible
Jazz, to me, is like that distant relative that just keeps on going no matter how ill it seems to get. It doesn't take a genius to see that jazz is not as popular as it was ninety or even fifty years ago but nonetheless musicians still soldier on and persist in this noble genre of extreme dexterity, skill and expression. The Bad Plus is a brilliant contemporary jazz trio with some really angular and complex motifs which still hold on to a euphonious tune, not just rapid notes for the sake of rapid notes as some bebop bands strive to do.
On their new album, Made Possible, the band has a bit of a false start with the fairly dry and church hymn-esque 'Pound for Pound'. Though the crescendo is vaguely exciting the song crawls along at an extremely slow pace with very little at all happening in the drums to spicen the song up for it's six minute duration. The band kicks back into the normal swing of things on 'Seven Minute Mind' with some extremely impressive piano work from Ethan Iverson and the constantly evolving rolling bass line and percussion backing the song well.
I love the unconventional nature of the chord progression in 'Wolf Out' with Iverson's left hand seemingly playing something completely unrelated to his right hand in a very odd tempo I cannot even begin to decipher. Then the band just goes into total jazz freak out mode about half way through the song, playing louder and more frantically than I have ever heard on any Bad Plus record. The band decides to throw some brass into the mix for this album which works wonders to give Made Possible another layer for the listener to sink their teeth into. The moody 'Sing for a Silver Dollar' as a superb chord based song with some larger than life drum beats which is only tainted by an excruciatingly annoying pause in the middle filled with tinny electronic drum sounds and random tones.
'I Want to Feel Good' sees the trio at their most optimistic with a constant flow of major chords and piano flutters throughout. Much like 'Sing for a Silver Dollar' this track suffers from some irritating and ineffective electronic tones in the background which really do detract from my enjoyment of the song. The fourteen minute epic that is 'In Stitches' stands out prominently on the album with the band experimenting with ambient noise over extremely slow piano chords, almost like something you would expect a drone artist to do. The song grows at a snail's pace, rising to become a mad scramble of smashed keys and cymbals before eventually dying down.
While this album does have its good moments, the ambivalent moments far outweigh it. Tracks like 'For My Eyes Only', 'Re-elect That' and 'Victoria' are pretty tame really compared to the songs of albums like their 2003 Colombia Records released These Are the Vistas, and action-packed jazz album from start to finish and one of my favourite from The Bad Plus. This is really an album for a die hard fan of the band as it has a real lack of the energy and lateral thinking of some of the band's previous releases.