Six years and seven releases into a collective journey devoted to the notion of cultivating a stylistic room of their own, pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer David King, who comprise The Bad Plus, offer several firsts on For All I Care . For one thing, TBP completely eschews original music, instead presenting Iverson’s idea-packed arrangements of Euro-canon music by Igor Stravinsky, Gyorgy Ligeti, and Milton Babbitt, and eight atonal, polymetric deconstructions of post-’70s pop tunes, their trademark since TBP’s eponymous 2001 debut for Barcelona-based indie Fresh Sound, thereby doubling their “cover” output. Also for the first time, TBP joins forces with Minneapolis-based alt-rocker Wendy Lewis, who functions as a co-equal fourth musician on songs like Nirvana’s “Lithium,” the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love,” and Heart’s “Barracuda.” Rather than inhibit TBP’s collective energy, Lewis enhances it — she knows how to project an emotional point of view while dealing with the cerebral, push-the-envelope heat of TBP’s highly curated highbrow language. She articulates the lyrics clearly and understatedly, phrasing them in a rubato bob-and-weave over King’s meters and timbral combinations, Anderson’s vamps and interpolations, and Iverson’s contrapuntal lines, eliminating any archness or camp that a listener might attach to TBP’s purely instrumental treatments. Further energizing the flow are the signature compression and distortion techniques of TBP’s producer Tchad Blake, back in the fold after recusing himself from 2007’s Prog, a date that purported to evoke the band’s in-person sound.
About the Writer
Ted Panken writes extensively about jazz and creative music for various publications, including DownBeat, Jazziz, and Jazz Times, and programmed jazz on WKCR-FM in New York City from 1985 through 2008. He won the 2007 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his article "Smalls Universe," published by DownBeat. His blog, Today Is The Question, contains over 160 of his articles and verbatim interviews.