TO Jazz Review: The Bad Plus with Joshua Redman, June 24, Nathan Phillips

The Bad Plus played Nathan Phillips last Sunday as the second half of a double bill with Hiromi. The trio has been playing together for over a decade. They grew popular for their creative re-invention of rocks tunes; from Nirvana to David Bowie. Throughout it all they remain a high calibre jazz act. This time around, the band has shaken things up with the addition of fiery saxophonist Joshua Redman. It made for an intense pairing. Think jazz, with a bebop saxophone, fuelled by driving beats that were at times on the threshold of hard rock.

The last time I saw the Bad Plus, I was scared of drummer David King. He can go from demure to all out thrash metal in the blink of an eye. At first I thought he looked like the type of guy that would have beaten me up in High School. Then I realized he smiles too much and has so much fun playing. The assessment didn’t feel right. After the show, I got a chance to exchange a few words with pianist Ethan Iverson and realized he is a total mega-nerd. That’s when I realized that the Dave is more like the guy who would beat up the bullies who beat up the nerds in High School. Good for you Dave.

Tenor-man Joshus Redman is well schooled in the traditions of bop. He can play with intensity without losing his stride. Bassist Reid Anderson admitted that after playing so long as a trio, Redman’s addition was challenging them in new ways. In the latter half of the set, they decided to calm things down with a slower ballad. Bop saxophonists can be pretty intense, and that’s a lot of fun. The interesting thing is that they can play a ballad with an artisan’s touch if you ask them nicely. As intense as John Coltrane could be, he would also play beautiful ballads with great artistic integrity. Joshua Redman is no different.

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival