The Dakota edition of Bad Plus 2010 was highly saturated with the guys' original works, and the performance was relatively mellow without losing any of the trio's trademark edge, humor and elements of surprise. King was as propulsive as ever without blasting the heck out of his kit. Anderson still plays a lyrical foil but with plenty of assertive solos. And Iverson's lines and harmonies have evolved in complexity over the decade without losing their basic engaging quirkiness. Over the two sets I attended, there were of course compositions from the new release, but also some old favorites as well as new unrecorded works, along with a few covers of Ornette Coleman, Rogers & Hart (a surprising encore Have You Met Miss Jones?") and one of my all-time Bad Plus favorites, Aphex Twin ("Flim").
If TBP seem more mellow these days, it's not because the music is any less exciting or more predictable today than ten years ago. But in 2010, the music is less startling to jazz (and other) audiences. And the guys seem to be taking on a wider swath of influences of modern music, be it interpretations and reinventions or sounds from within. And they've stayed on the acoustic pathway, proving loops and overdubs and computer wizardry are not essential to 21st century music. Maybe that is the biggest surprise of all.
Photos: (top to bottom) Ethan Iverson; Reid Anderson; Dave King; The Bad Plus (all photos by Andrea Canter at the Dakota, December 25-27, 2010)