When a band plays a cover, it gives them the unique opportunity to show off their musical style while playing a song already familiar. In that sense, The Bad Plus has managed to have their musical cake and eat it too on their new, all-cover release It’s Hard. Since their founding in 2000, The Bad Plus has used cover songs to help give more casual listeners an easy entrance to their sound and style. The Minneapolis based trio has since seen their brand of aggressive free jazz and catch on around the world in no small way due to their forays into musical masquerades.Check out the album here, and the full review can be read below.Opening with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the band immediately grabs your attention with an unsettling paced, wired version of the tune “Maps” from the 2004 album of the same name. Pianist Ethan Iverson delivers the more melodic flourishes of the song with the mounting madness that raises heart rates and transforms the song into a runaway train ride of staccato key strikes. The Bad Plus proudly declares themselves leaderless whenever asked, and the passing of the center of attention from member to member happens in an instant.Drummer Dave King is a fierce presence, fearlessly re-purposing melody and altering tempo to make each piece part of this new whole all while crackling with a dynamic percussive energy. Peter Gabriel‘s “Games Without Frontier,” for example, finds him turning layers of vocals into drums fills, with the final result evoking but not aping the source material with a passion that is infectious. After the frenetic pace of the first two tracks, the band slows into Cyndi Lauper‘s ballad “Time After Time” hauntingly, adding a musical hitch that transforms the languid nature of the tune into a challenging and engaging composition.No artist is safe from their touch, though none truly suffer for it. “I Walk The Line,” the Johnny Cash defiant ode to self determination gains a bouncy edge that will have toes tapping. Fellow Minneapolis musician, the late Prince, gets an appreciative nod from the band on their sparse but richly rendered version of “The Beautiful Ones.” Though the Bad Plus strip away all of the Purple One’s studio effects and vocals, their version of the song is a love letter to the intriguing melody and sonic through line at the heart of the original.Serving as a true collective is easier said than done, and Bad Plus bassist Reid Anderson is the one who most regularly musically steps back and work more for the good of the whole. On their cover of the Barry Manilow standard, “Mandy” Anderson shows a rich tone that he uses to color the tune without ever demanding attention in the manner of his more flamboyant band mates. The overall willingness of each member to sacrifice for the success of the whole fuels their musical agility.The last two songs of the album showcase the overall point of the project perfectly. Penultimate track “The Robots,” by German industrial pioneers Kraftwerk sits nestled next to the final tune, a slight reworking of jazz legend Ornette Coleman‘s “Broken Shadows.” While the original composers of these songs had wildly dissimilar approaches, The Bad Plus flutter between jaw dropping stutter start blasts of untamed expression and hushed and haunting passages without conscious thought and make each tune their own while never completely abandoning the spirit of the source material.In this age of remakes and the dearth of originality across the entertainment spectrum, it would be easy to decry a waste of talent in this album of remakes. But on It’s Hard, The Bad Plus manage to fuse their idiosyncratic creative spark to the intention of the creators in a way that transcends simple homages. While fans surely hope for more new tunes from The Bad Plus in the future, for now they have these eleven examples of how inspiration can lead to creation and recreation alike.
Published on October 28, 2014 at 12:06 am Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschweds In a matter of moments, Donnie Mavencamp must transition from excitement to disappointment and back to excitement.As Minnesota Morris’ drives get stopped on third down, Mavencamp switches from a disgruntled wide receiver or quarterback to a punter ready to swing the game’s momentum.“It’s kind of hard to be excitable punting because being an offensive player too, it means one of my jobs I’m not doing well,” Mavencamp said.The contrast between punter and other positions is experienced often in Division III football. Twelve of the top 50 punters in Division III in yards per punt are listed at a position other than punter or kicker.It gives them a mental test that most position players don’t have to deal with. Playing multiple roles helps them realize the specifics of the sport. It challenges them to schedule their weight lifting around when they practice each position.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I don’t necessarily view it as two positions,” Oberlin (Ohio) linebacker and punter Max Schenk said. “I just view it as a way that I can contribute to the team in a very influential way.”Examining the fine-tuned aspects in his punting game inspired him to break down his linebacker game more precisely, Schenk said. After understanding the nuances of punting, he translated that into studying the best way for him to use his hands when trying to shed blockers.The key for Schenk in punting is consistency. Being able to repeat the more technical elements of the catch-drop-kick motion every single time is what he said makes a good punter.Despite having been a quarterback for his entire life, Mavencamp has an appreciation for the nuances of punting.“If you don’t drop the ball at a certain angle or if your toe dips down or something, the ball’s going to drop faster and not go as far,” Mavencamp said. “So it’s just harder.”But when Tyler Stanek plays as a wide receiver, he’s not thinking about punting. And while the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (California) wideout and punter’s offensive teammates trudge off the field in frustration after a failed third-down conversion attempt, he has one final chance to end the drive with a well-executed play.“As a receiver already staying on the field when we punt on fourth down, it keeps your mind off of messing up a punt,” Stanek said, “and you just kind of go out there and do it.”By putting a skill-position player at punter, it also opens up more opportunities for fakes. Stanek said C-M-S uses a fake punt about five times a season. C-M-S has several fake punts in its playbook and having Stanek take the snap makes it more likely that they work.While these players expand the team’s horizons, they must hone in on their practice. Finding a balance in training is something Stanek struggled with this summer.“If I’m kicking that day, I have to take into account if I’m squatting that day,” Stanek said, “because it’s really hard to kick if you’re feeling sore.”Developing skills at two positions provides extra burdens. But when multi-position players put in the time, they can compete with the best punters in Division III.“Some people think you can just come in and be the punter,” Mavencamp said, “… but if you want it done well, it’s really not that simple. You got to put a lot more time into your punting than people think.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+