After 12 years together and 10 albums (including the upcoming "Made Possible," due next week), the members of the piano trio the Bad Plus have always seemed like musicians with simply not enough to do.
All jokes aside, the band's members, Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson and Dave King have made time to work with a variety of collaborators over the years, which in addition to including such names such as Billy Hart and Joshua Redman also feature a group of doctoral candidates for composition at Duke University.
The Bad Plus established a residency at Duke in 2010-11 with the goal of stretching its comfort zone, a mission that included a university-commissioned take on Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," which premiered at Duke in 2011 and will be part of next year's Ojai Music Festival. Additionally, the trio recorded four songs composed by PhD candidates Jamie Keesecker, Alex Kotch, Dan Ruccia and Kenneth David Stewart.
Not surprisingly, the pieces sound a lot like the Bad Plus. Led by Iverson's balletic piano and the locked-in rhythm section of King and Anderson, the pieces are a testimony to the strength of their diverse sound.
Whether on the unsettled piece "Thetastate," which features a spookily panning sample from a conversation with a psychic telephone service, or an untitled piece by Alex Kotch that shifts into another gear after a hammering percussion break from King, the songs sound like they could've come from the band's own sessions but with intriguingly off-center details.
The four tracks were recorded last spring after two working sessions with the composers, and they are streaming now through Nov. 1 on the university's website. Think of them as an appetizer for the group's upcoming album (and a performance at the Mint on Oct. 9).
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