The Bad Plus, 'For All I Care'
Avant-jazzists raise the bar by doing what they do best
Special to Metromix
The buzz: Thanks to a piano-led cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in 2003, Midwestern trio the Bad Plus have established cred with both a rock audience (drawn in by not just the Nirvana song, but tricked-out versions of Sabbath's “Iron Man” and the Pixies' “Velouria”), and jazzists impressed by their massive chops. “For All I Care” is their first album as a four-piece, with Wendy Lewis cooing everything from Heart's “Barracuda” to the Flaming Lips' “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate.”
The verdict: Though their rep was established via their repertoire of covers, the Bad Plus' records have always been stacked with mostly-uninteresting originals. No more, and good riddance: the members are much more comfortable in the skins of others, especially when they're deconstructing Pink Floyd's “Comfortably Numb,” making it a series of intriguingly off-tempo piano runs, or pushing challenging time changes into Nirvana's otherwise straight-ahead “Lithium.” For her part, Lewis smartly stays true to the originals' core melodies, making even an already-avant piece—like a smashingly broad version of Wilco's “Radio Cure”—into jazz that's both approachable and engaging.
Did you know? Enlisting Lewis to sing was inspired by a similar move by one of the Bad Plus' idols, John Coltrane, who recorded a record with singer Johnny Hartman in 1963.
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