Critic’s Pick: The Bad Plus and Brad Mehldau to meet at UCLA


So who’s your pick going into Saturday night?

This could be a reference to this weekend’s welterweight bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Robert Guerrero, but the prime-time matchup L.A. jazz fans are talking about is the pairing of two of the most inventive piano trios working today in the Brad Mehldau Trio and the ever-adventurous Bad Plus.

In one corner? The cagey veteran in Brad Mehldau, who has shown no sign of slowing his relentlessly creative pace. He first reached wider notice with a series of “Art of the Trio” albums in the late ‘90s, which in addition to original compositions introduced covers of Radiohead, Nick Drake and Rammstein (!) to the jazz idiom.

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And he hasn’t stopped stretching out, as shown on a pair of enchanting trio releases in 2012 and a duet recording with classical pianist Kevin Hayes. There was also his recent run of shows with the Punch Brothers’ mandolinist, Chris Thile.

In the other? The members of the Bad Plus, who also raised eyebrows early in their careers with a vigorously broad taste in covers, including songs by Blondie, the Pixies and Aphex Twin. But their continued inventive run proves that they’re far from a novelty act, releasing two albums primarily of originals in “Never Stop” and last year’s “Made Possible,” and the group returns to Southern California next month to perform their take on Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” at the Ojai Music Festival.

Though Mehldau obviously is the marquee voice in his trio, the Bad Plus has long been intended as more of a collective, right down to its name. Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and kinetic drummer Dave King can all be counted on to turn heads Saturday night, and each brings compositions to the table.

The wild card comes in special guest Joshua Redman, who has collaborated with the Bad Plus and Mehldau numerous times in the past, and the saxophonist’s latest album “Walking Shadows” (due next Tuesday) bears some sonic similarities to Mehldau’s lauded “Highway Rider” project. Ultimately, this night has no loser, but a knockout is certainly expected.

Brad Mehldau Trio with the Bad Plus and special guest Joshua Redman, Royce Hall, UCLA. 340 Royce Drive, L.A. Saturday, 8 p.m. $20-$55,


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