Review: The Bad Plus’ ‘Rite of Spring’ captures Stravinsky’s vision

The Bad Plus has taken on many different guises over its career, tapping the songs of Aphex Twin, Ornette Coleman and Black Sabbath along with its own to craft a sound rooted in jazz but most consistent with a genre called the Bad Plus. Now, for the ninth studio recording, the trio of pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King is taking on an orchestra.

A piano trio tackling Stravinsky’s knotty masterpiece “The Rite of Spring” may sound audacious. But the trio has been here before, delivering a stout take on the composer’s “Variation d’Apollon” on the 2009 album “For All I Care.”

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Buoyed by Anderson’s plucked bass and King’s surging cymbals, Iverson zigzags through “Spring Rounds,” which dissolves to a flickering finish akin to the start of a rain. “Games of the Two Rival Tribes” gallops atop Iverson’s unraveling melody, and “The Sage/Dance of the Earth” coalesces behind the rhythm section into a misshapen sort of swing. A furious second half that includes “Glorification of the Chosen One” and “Sacrificial Dance” veers through its clockwork intricacies with manic flashes that land squarely in the group’s wheelhouse. The Bad Plus mostly set aside improvisation in an effort to capture Stravinsky’s modernist vision, but in some ways it’s never sounded freer.



The Bad Plus

“The Rite of Spring”

Sony Masterworks

Three stars