The Bad Plus adds up a new Rite of Spring with smart subtraction

bad plusThe Bad Plus: The Rite of Spring (Masterworks)

The propulsive “Augurs of Spring” rhythms and the contorted “Ritual of Abduction” must’ve called out to Minneapolis’ muscular alt-jazz trio. They bravely delve into Stravinsky’s transformative epic The Rite of Spring. Yes they boil down the orchestra; yet Ethan Iverson brilliantly funnels Stravinsky’s glittering, dissonant orchestration through his keyboard.

Bass and drums stoke the suspense and ecstasy, the thunderous drama, the sense of wonder at life and the planet’s riches, strangeness, madness and beauty. Thius amounts to one of the most seamlessly successful jazz fusions of classical material, And that’s partly because the group has a strong rock sensibility, and if The Rite isn’t classical rock music in its essence, I don’t know what is. It may not be metal, but it sure is stone. 021513_BadPlus_0217.r The Bad Plus perform “The Rite of Spring” live in Boston. From left, pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, drummer Dave King. Courtesy bostonglobe.com.

And a good bad plus, you gotta like Iverson’s tongue-in-cheek unpretentiousness when recently identifying the piece after they had performed the 45-minute work live in Boston. “That was a tune by Igor Stravinsky called The Rite of Spring,” he deadpanned.

As a paean to paganism that spurred a riot at its May, 1913 premiere, The Rite still casts naked light on its world, and never grows any older than springtime.

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This review originally was published in The Shepherd Express, in a shorter form. 

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