The Bad Plus also has changed: Missing from the two sets on Saturday night were any of those crowd-pleasing, slightly tongue-in-cheek rock covers, as they were from their last two albums. The band's focus has shifted more fully to the members' own distinctive compositions, which combine puckish bombast with a playfully subversive sense of experimentation.
Each set began in sedate fashion, though both quickly established why the Bad Plus remain the rare jazz group that deserves to be called a power trio. The evening began with the sweetly wistful sound of bassist Reid Anderson's "Pound for Pound" from the trio's latest album, Made Possible. As the piece strolled on, Anderson and pianist Ethan Iverson began spinning tendril-like deviations from the main melodic line while drummer Dave King tripped and stuttered the beat with the acrobatic tumbling of a silent-film comedian.
King's stunt work was especially impressive during the first set when a piece of drum gear, the hi-hat clutch, went missing.
They tore through the hyperactive grooves and restlessly shifting rhythms of King's "The Empire Strikes Backwards." On Anderson's "Know the Difference," their snarled instrumental lines constantly threatened to unravel into chaos, finally pulling back from the brink into a laid-back syncopation.
Anderson boasted that King's playing had "made the hi-hat clutch obsolete." Maybe so, but its eventual return made for a more assured second set. The intense interplay between the bandmates expanded the boundaries of new songs like Iverson's agitated "Re-Elect That" and the honky-tonk swing of King's "I Want To Feel Good, Pt. 2."