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Monday, Nov. 1, 2010

The Bad Plus

Never Stop (E1 Music)

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Whether it's The Bad Plus’ album's worth of prog rock covers, snark-scented tribute to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or straight-faced take on ABBA, it’s always been a bit hard to take the trio completely seriously as a jazz group. At least on the group’s latest venture of trancey, dancey post-bop, Never Stop, they lay it mostly on the line with their first effort of all-original compositions. Sinewy, ceaseless piano lines and rabid machine-gun drumming lead the way over slinky grooves (“Never Stop”), pulsing rave-ups (“Beryl Loves to Dance”), righteous gospel-blues (“Super America”) and half-assed attempts at balladry (“People Like You”).

Along with glimpses and traces of Vince Guaraldi and Bill Evans, there is a prevalent slick geekiness that would be right at home backing a modern-day car commercial. It’s the paradox of the boys’ career. Like a hotel lounge piano trio gone to acid, there’s an underlying sense of musical bad-assery, but they are heard while merely at play.


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