The festival was started in 1978 to showcase traditional jazz music in the city. Nowadays the festival welcomes acts from all areas of jazz including the highly acclaimed The Bad Plus – a jazz trio made up of Ethan Iverson (piano), Dave King (drum kit) and Reid Anderson (double bass) from the USA. The trio are in the middle of an extensive world tour and have made a brief two-night stop to offer their contribution to the Edinburgh Jazz Festival audiences.
The band opened their show with a track entitled Wolfed Out (from their forthcoming album). For anyone unfamiliar with the work of The Bad Plus, this was an excellent scene-setter as it demonstrated their ability to fuse very unconventional, discordant harmonies with moments of resolve into the more “traditional” sounds of jazz. Complex timing and moments of atmospheric polytonality merge together to give the band a truly unique sound.
Although the band do re-interpret better known works, their show focused on their own compositions giving first-timers a real insight to their work.
Whilst the band appears to be set up as a conventional jazz trio, the attention is by no means centred around the piano. Each instrument is given its moment to shine, not least when the piece Giant (by Reid Anderson) aptly opened with a giant solo from the giant of the orchestra – the double bass. Ethan Iverson’s extended piano solo opening to his own composition, Guilty, was a display of his technical ability and dexterity as a pianist.
As well as providing tasteful, interesting and complex drum kit work, David King’s composition 1972 Bronze Medalist was a real highlight of the evening. Inspired by a French Olympian, the piece made a very topical and appropriate appearance in the run-up to the 2012 games. Gritty and bold, yet effortlessly so on account of their excellent musicianship.
The Bad Plus certainly ring the bell for modern jazz.