The Bad Plus: These are the Vistas (2003)
Sure, the Bad Plus is a piano trio. Just a modern take on one. On These Are The Vistas, the group's major label debut, these three players present a decidedly more contemporary vision of the concept. "Big Eater" begins ominously, before its disjointed beat turns martial. Drummer Dave King's attack is alternately aggressive, delicate, and swinging. Contrast this with Ethan Iverson, whose piano most often shimmers, but rumbles when called for. Join the two with Reid Anderson's steady bass that more often than not sets the mood of the song: chunky and resonant on "Keep the Bugs Off Your Glass," active and insistent on "Boo-Wah," or pulsating on "Everywhere You Turn," suggesting someone watching out the window of a train. Vistas, in addition to originals, offers standards, but to the Bad Plus this means Blondie, Aphex Twin, and Nirvana. Their version of "Heart of Glass" captures the offhand wistfulness and nonchalance of the original, while adding their own abstract touch. The band throws everything they have at the melody. "Flim" recreates a shuffling Cool Britannia beat, bolstered by Anderson who keeps time between Iverson and King. And on "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Iverson suggests the vocals and lyrics, Anderson causes you to reconsider the importance of the bassist to the song, and King reminds you that whatever else is going on, it's the drummer that gives a trio its power. King roars as Iverson and Anderson pound and pluck dramatically. Producer Tchad Blake gets a crisp, expressive sound from the band, recalling the work he's done in the past for Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, and Tom Waits. It's clear and dynamic. The CD closes with a lyrical Anderson original: a delicate bass and piano duet gradually joined by distant drums. The tune, “Silence is the Question,” peaks as each instrument repeats its individual melodic line until the conclusion, and we have our answer.
Track Listing: 1. Big Eater 2. Keep The Bugs Off Your Glass And The Bears Off Your A** 3. Smells Like Teen Spirit 4. Everywhere You Turn 5. 1972 Bronze Medalist 6. Guilty 7. Boo-Wah 8. Flim 9. Heart Of Glass 10. Silence Is The Question