Release Date: Feb 3, 2009
Record label: Universal
Perhaps the most compelling, shocking, and wonderful thing about this collaboration is how much Lewis' presence becomes part of the trio's landscape. Where before they've chosen tunes rich in irony for a jazz band to cover -- "Heart of Glass" and "Iron Man" come immediately to mind -- the emotional intensity and reverence Lewis offers the material only intensify their approach, especially "How Deep Is Your Love." On tracks like Heart's "Barracuda," Lewis becomes a real soloist despite deliberately downplaying her interpretive skill as a singer. In becoming a "member" of the band on this outing, she stands out as its singer.
Swearing at MotoristsTwin Cities alt-jazzbos take another bite out of the rock canon: this time, with vocalsIt’s a “your peanut butter’s in my chocolate” musical conundrum: Are Minneapolis’ Bad Plus a jazz combo with a healthy appreciation for modern pop, or a power trio that just happens to have strong feelings for jazz? Both, as it happens, and on the band’s fifth studio LP, For All I Caretunes themselves only occasionally work, with a dark-hearted gem like The Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” followed by a strangely mute iteration of Heart’s “Barracuda” as though the two were meant to forever stand side-by-side as strange bedfellows. But for all of The Bad Plus’ instrumental prowess and fearless exploration, it’s Lewis’ voice that stars here, bending notes and emotion to her will like so many coat hangers left outside in a tornado. Listen to The Bad Plus on MySpace.
The Bad Plus have been road-testing this material - which expands on their regular habit, that of exposing pop hits to jazz improv, and including modern classical themes by Ligeti, Milton Babbitt and Stravinsky - but not with the inclusion of Minneapolis indie-rock singer Wendy Lewis. Lewis handles the pop themes here (including Nirvana's Lithium, Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb, Wilco's Radio Cure and the Bee Gees' How Deep Is Your Love) before the trio muscles in with its assault of clanging, dissonant piano chords, fast bass counterpoint and thunderous percussion. Comfortably Numb hauntingly sets Lewis's sinister whisper against Reid Anderson's emphatic basswork before the song builds in rippling piano figures and sonorous vocal duet harmonies.
There really hasn’t been a deal-breaker like this in a long, long time. The Bad Plus, as bad-ass a drum/bass/piano jazz trio as there ever was, have done the unthinkable. Though they came into prominence in 2003 with the breakout album These Are the Vistas and its respective “Smells Like Teen Spirit” cover, the Plus have since reinvented their sound many times over, mixing eclectic original songs with wild-eyed pop covers, often choosing well-known songs from the likes of Rush, Vangelis, the Police, Tears for Fears, and Black Sabbath ...