Recent listening, current

Monday, April 8, 2013

75. The Bad Plus / Prog (2007)

I admit the title caught my eye: Prog. I like Bad Plus well enough, even if their brand of jazz-rock fusion tends to wear thin (or thick) on my ears after so long. In jazz we describe them as a piano trio. I say they're a power trio, lying closer to Cream than Oscar Peterson. Sure, that's a minor conundrum of classification, but this is an interesting album, and what we call "jazz" has become an interesting field, to say the least. There are some terrific originals (I like Iverson's "Mint" and Anderson's epic "Giant"), but this record's trick is in the interpretation of progressive rock like Rush ("Tom Sawyer"), David Bowie ("Life on Mars"), and Tears for Fears ("Everybody Wants to Rule the World"). These invoke the roots of both the prog rock and jazz-rock fusion, a crossing of wires in a genre of crossed wires. I love it. Remember Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis, and Return to Forever? How they smashed exploratory jazz head-on with the fury of electricified rock and roll? All those extravagant displays of musicianship that pushed the envelope so far into left field that the genre designation didn't just stop mattering, it ceased to be? My language skirts hyperbole, but that's how I feel when I listen to Prog. I think they've really hit the nail squarely with this record -- it is innovative, attentive, intelligent, and really exciting. It cuts straight to the root of why these compositions have come to be what they are to us, and why we appreciate either style of music, running with that idea until the band is out of string and must make its own. And that thrill is why I listen to jazz.

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