21 February 2009


A common gripe from my non-jazz-listening friends is that they often want to listen to jazz, but they don't have the time to figure out the good from the bad or start learning about the historically important recordings. This is essentially a lame cop-out ("I've got tons of CDs, I can lend you five good ones to start off with," is my usual reply), but now jazz fans have an essential resource that could break down even the most passive jazz resistor. Take Five: A Weekly Jazz Sampler from NPR and Jazz24 presents a simple introduction to jazz for the novice by selecting five songs every week, and streaming them via podcast.

Take Five's podcasts offer a good variety of music to sample. On any given week, the program could take a look at a particular subgenre (like hard bop, soul jazz, or fusion), important recordings from individual instruments (like vibes or flute), or best-of compilations (like the best of Blue Note, 2008, or modern piano trios). The lists can get creative and unearth some recordings that even advanced listeners have yet to check out, like this list of jazz tunes from the Civil Rights Movement - I didn't know Grant Green had written a tune commemorating the completion of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march.

So keep it in mind next time you run across a friend bemoaning the insurmountable barriers to loving jazz. They'll thank you later.

Subscribe via podcast feed or RSS feed.

13 February 2009


Those hard bop posts took a long time, so I'm taking the weekend off. Enjoy the links, see you next week...
  • One of my favorite time-wasters is If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats. They have plenty of photo collections for any taste, but two that potentially of interest to readers of this blog are The Art of Jazz and The Friends of Milt Hinton, featuring the photography of the great bassist. Bonus points for anyone who can guess the reference in the blog's title...
  • Nat Hentoff has begun writing for jazz.com. Here's his first contribution, on Nesuhi Ertegun and Joel Dorn.
  • Have you ever read any of Brad Mehldau's prose? He's quite a thoughtful writer, and many of his writings are posted on his website (you can also download his complete works on a pdf here).
  • Just in time for Valentine's Day, Night Lights will be looking at some husband-and-wife teams in jazz on tonight's show.
  • Since today is Friday the 13th, I wanted to post a video of Monk playing his tune of the same name (from his Prestige date with Sonny Rollins), but there is no video to be found on YouTube. Instead, here is a trio recording of Friday the 13th performed by Avram Fefer on saxophone, Michael Bisio on bass, and Igal Foni on drums.

10 February 2009

Hard Bop

Last week at Rifftides, journalist and blogger Doug Ramsey wrote a short post on the complicated nature of the term "hard bop." Pointing out the difficulties in hammering out a definition of hard bop, he quotes longtime record producer and jazz scholar Orrin Keepnews, who said,
So it is quite possible that there never really was a musical style that could properly be described a "hard bop."
This sparked an interesting debate in the comments section, and even warranted follow-up posts from Doug and others. The subject of hard bop is something I have spent much time considering. My undergraduate thesis at the University of Florida focused on the social politics of hard bop. Ramsey is correct to note that hard bop is a complicated genre. Unlike bebop or free jazz, it does not represent a progression of jazz, in which new elements were incorporated into the music while other elements were jettisoned completely. Rather, in the words of noted critic Martin Williams, hard bop was a regression, in which a number of musicians reduced jazz to its so-called "roots," namely, African American folk forms like the blues, with a bit of gospel and R&B thrown in the mix.

Of course, the major problem with the term hard bop is that it was invented by music critics* and rarely used by musicians themselves (such was the case with bebop for a long time as well; many musicians simply referred to it as modern jazz). However, this fact does not delegitimize the term. Though assigning genre labels to music can in effect create unnecessary boundaries around that music, it is nonetheless helpful in understanding both the the musical and social forces that contributed to the creation of individual musical statements and the evolution of jazz itself.

So I though I would indulge myself with a longish post on the subject of hard bop. For organizational purposes, I have broken up the piece into several subposts, Ethan Iverson-style. The posts that follow are largely derived from my UF thesis. If you would like to read a copy of the thesis itself, drop me a line (davidhill126[at]gmail[dot]com) and I would be happy to send you a copy. Your comments are as always welcome.

*In his liner notes to the 1957 Art Blakey album Hard Bop, Nat Hentoff writes that John Mehegan first used the phrase "hard bop" while writing for the New York Herald Tribune in the mid-1950s.

Table of Contents

The Musical Definition of Hard Bop
East Coast vs. West Coast Jazz: A False Dichotomy?
The Racial Politics of Hard Bop
Recommended Readings and Discography

The Musical Definition of Hard Bop

Let's begin with the most elementary definition of hard bop. Hard bop was an mid-1950s extension of bebop that emphasized roots of jazz (namely, the blues) while incorporating elements of R&B and gospel. That is the simple definition, but in reality, it is more complicated than that.

To really understand hard bop, you have to understand cool jazz. Cool jazz developed as a relatively slow-paced, well-structured, and subdued style of jazz, with a slightly narrow range of emotional expression. Whereas bebop (typified by the music of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and Dizzy Gillespie) was fast-paced and full of complex harmony, cool jazz was easy on the ears. The first cool jazz recordings were the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool sessions. Miles Davis wrote of the difference between Birth of the Cool and bebop:
Bird and Diz played this hip, real fast thing, and if you weren’t a fast listener, you couldn’t catch the humor or the feeling in their music.... But Birth of the Cool was different because you could hear everything and hum it also.
This was typical of cool jazz as a whole. After Birth of the Cool, other groups adopted the style initiated by Davis and his collaborator, Gil Evans. In addition to incorporating the subtle swing of Birth of the Cool, cool jazz witnessed a rise in experimentation and fusion with the European classical tradition. Gerry Mulligan and John Lewis utilized contrapuntal forms in their music. Dave Brubeck studied composition with the French composer Darius Milhaud and experimented with non-standard meter. These were not the first musicians to engage with the classical tradition (Charlie Parker, for instance, was fond of quoting The Rite of Spring in his solos), but they represented a new wave of experimentation of jazz which was colored with European flavor.

Typically, these Europhilic innovations came at the expense of the various African American cultural forms, such as the blues, which were at the forefront of earlier jazz. Cool jazz also often did not swing as hard as bebop or swing. The lightness of swing and detachment from the blues were major sources of criticism of cool jazz, out of which hard bop was conceived. In a 1986 interview, Art Blakey commented retrospectively that cool jazz was too stale for his taste, alluding to the communicative power he felt in the blues. He charged that the musicians of cool jazz lacked "fire," adding, "Music is supposed to wash away the dust of everyday life, not come in cool. You’re supposed to make [the audience] turn around, pat their feet. That’s what jazz is about." Though he is often credited as a creator of cool jazz, Miles Davis remembered in his autobiography that cool jazz had become unexciting to him by the mid-1950s. He wanted to "take the music back to the fire and improvisations of bebop" after cool jazz had come into vogue in the 1950s.

Hard bop was born in the mid-1950s. Two recordings signaled the birth of hard bop: Miles Davis' Walkin'and Horace Silver's Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers, both recorded in 1954. The title track of Walkin' was called "the clarion call of the hard bop movement" by jazz critic Frank Kofsky. Written in the traditional 12-bar blues form, the tune featured trumpet playing from Davis heavily versed in the blues and a new approach to jazz piano from Silver, who favored blues voicings over the fugue-like countermelodies of cool jazz. As Davis put it in his autobiography, "I wanted to take the music forward into a more funky kind of blues." Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers spawned a hard bop classic, Silver’s "The Preacher," highlighted by a gospel-like melody, Silver’s bluesy piano style, and a very strong rhythmic drive.

After these recordings met artistic and commercial success (Walkin’ contributed to Davis’ artistic and commercial resurgence in the middle of the decade while a single of "The Preacher" would sell 100,000 copies), other musicians adopted a similar style, and hard bop as a movement in jazz was born. It was easier to understand than bebop (which was almost universally panned outside of a few enthusiastic critics during the 1940s), but had a stronger rhythmic drive and wider range of emotional expression than cool jazz. Hard bop was funky, earthy, and intensely catchy.

In my mind, the quintessential recording of hard bop was Art Blakey's "Moanin'," written by pianist Bobby Timmons. The melody, laid over a standard 4/4 swing beat, featured call and response riffs between the piano and winds reminiscent of black churches. The tune also featured an incredibly bluesy solo by Lee Morgan, who himself was the archetypal hard bop trumpeter. If you were to construct a checklist of concepts necessary to define a hard bop tune, "Moanin'" would meet all the criteria on the list. The melody swings hard and utilizes blues voicings. The soloists (Morgan, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, and Timmons) drift between blues riffs and intricate runs of sixteenth notes suggestive of Parker and Gillespie. The arrangement is also well-structured, with the call-and-response patterns and countermelodies explicitly written out for the winds and piano.

The verbal discourse of hard bop was also highly informed by African American culture. "Funky," "dirty," "the gutbucket," and "down-home" came to the forefront of jazz vernacular. Some notable song titles of the style include "Home Cookin'," "Dat Dere," "Dig Dis," and "Sister Sadie." Such descriptions and song titles reflected the African American identity of hard bop.

It is also important to note that hard bop is more accurately a variety of styles united under the term "hard bop," rather than a monolithic and unified style. Nat Adderley's tune "Fun," featured on Cannonball Adderley's Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, rarely gets into 4/4 swing, but it is undoubtedly a hard bop tune. Any of the selections from Charles Mingus' Blues and Roots utilized blues riffs in contrapuntal forms and group improvisation, but the album can still be considered hard bop. Critic David Rosenthal, in his expansive musical study of the genre, divides hard bop into four sub-genres between the poles of experimentally-driven jazz and music that resembles both jazz and R&B. Such a conceptual framework explains why the soul jazz of Ramsey Lewis and the modernist experiments of Mingus can be fit into the hard bop spectrum.

Hard bop was widely praised by a number of critics beginning in the mid-1950s, some of whom had grown tired of cool jazz. Jazz critic Martin Williams praised hard bop’s "return to the roots" of jazz in 1959, arguing that it "saved both the emotional heart of jazz and its very substance from a preciocity [sic], contrivance, and emptiness that certain tendencies in cool jazz might have led to."

Chronologically, hard bop's heyday lasted from roughly the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, but the style itself did not die. Mercy Mercy Mercy, recorded in 1966, is an oft-cited example of the style, while the 1980s recordings of Wynton Marsalis were also arguably hard bop. Certain record labels, most notably Blue Note Records, Prestige Records, and Riverside Records, have become associated with hard bop. While these labels released many hard bop albums, none had a monopoly on the genre, nor were any devoted exclusively to hard bop.

East Coast vs. West Coast Jazz: A False Dichotomy?

A big source of confusion surrounding the meaning of hard bop is its geographical relationship with cool jazz, or, as it was often called in the 1950s, West Coast jazz. Many critics placed geographical labels on cool jazz and hard bop which were not entirely accurate. Many of the luminaries of cool jazz, including Chet Baker and Dave Brubeck, were based in Los Angeles. Thus, the term "West Coast Jazz" was born. And since hard bop arose as a reaction to cool jazz, and since most of its practitioners, like Miles Davis, Horace Silver, and Art Blakey, were based in New York, some critics decided to refer to hard bop as "East Coast Jazz."

But as Ted Gioia showed in his book West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California 1945-1960, the linkage between cool jazz and the West Coast was tenuous at best. While many stars of cool jazz were based out west, some, like Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz, operated out of New York. Conversely, many black musicians who would play an important role in hard bop, including Charles Mingus and Art Farmer, originally started out on the West Coast. "West Coast Jazz" was a convenient geographical association for cool jazz, but in reality, it distorted more than it illuminated.

Similarly, another source of confusion when it comes to the definitions of cool jazz and hard bop is the association between a number of record labels, as mentioned at the end of the previous post. Some would argue that if an album was released by Blue Note, Riverside, or Prestige, then that album is by definition hard bop. Conversely, if an album came out on Fantasy Records, then that record is by definition cool jazz, according to this argument. Though Blue Note, Riverside, and Prestige released many hard bop records, and Fantasy released many cool jazz records, all of these labels were much more diverse than this argument indicates. Blue Note, after all, released a lot of great avant-garde records in the 1960s (Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch and Ornette Coleman's Live at The Golden Circle come to mind), just to give one example of an exception. Defining a subgenre of jazz by which label it appeared on probably creates more confusion than clarification.

The Racial Politics of Hard Bop

Nat Hentoff's autobiography, Speaking Freely, contains an interesting story about Horace Silver which nicely sums up the social realities which contributed to the creation of hard bop. Hentoff attended the recording session for Horace Silver and The Jazz Messengers, one of the first hard bop records, in 1954. He recalled in his memoirs a comment made to him by Silver about the music he was about to record,
We’re going to be playing tunes white guys can’t play.... They won’t be comfortable with this music. We’re going to play jazz with the beat and sounds of where we grew up—in black churches, in black neighborhoods.
Hentoff contextualized Silver's remark by explaining the popularity of cool jazz, which was played mostly by white musicians.* In Hentoff's eyes,
Here were these white guys appropriating black music, stripping it of its soul, and making much more money than the deep swingers in the jazz capital of the world.
Why were these musicians so upset about the success of white musicians? Understanding this question reveals much about hard bop.

Cool jazz was perhaps the first subgenre of jazz that was dominated by white musicians. Whereas all the major figures and most of the minor figures of bebop were black, nearly all the major figures of cool jazz were white. The only major black contributors to cool jazz were John Lewis’ Modern Jazz Quartet and Miles Davis, who only kept his Birth of the Cool band together for a few weeks and subsequently returned to playing bebop in Charlie Parker’s quintet.

Though many of the musicians mentioned in my early post did not warm to cool jazz (no pun intended), the mainstream media ate it up. In the pages of Time, Life, and Good Housekeeping(!), cool jazz was depicted as reviving jazz from the excesses of bebop and ushering in a “New Jazz Age.” Time extolled the “intimate, soft, agile” music of Chet Baker and the serious and orderly tone of Gerry Mulligan (If you would like citations for these quotes, ask me for a copy of my thesis - footnotes are not Blogger's forte). Praising cool jazz, Time appreciated the affinity to classical music present in cool jazz while criticizing the “strange chords” and chaos at the forefront of bebop. Life also commended the “promising” cool jazz of Brubeck and Mulligan at the expense of “easy to dislike” bebop, which “lacked interest.” Good Housekeeping added a new dimension to the accolades of cool jazz by embracing the clean image of the cool school. In an article titled “From the Dive to the Dean: Jazz Becomes Respectable,” Good Housekeeping music editor George Marek wrote, “The jazz musicians of today [referring to the cool jazz] are no longer murky characters with short beards or berets on their heads,” simultaneously taking a swipe at the stereotype of the bohemian bebopper with a heroin addiction and endorsing the clean-cut image of the cool school. Stars like Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan appeared well-dressed in casual settings on album covers, and frequently appeared in magazine ads for cologne and other merchandise during the 1950s. To mainstream Americans who had read of the misdeeds of black jazz musicians during the preceding decade, the presentable image of cool musicians offered a respectable alternative to the shady subculture of bebop.

Dave Brubeck quickly became the chief media darling of cool jazz. In 1954, he signed a recording contract with Columbia Records, one of the largest record companies in America. He became noted for his popularity on the college circuit, so much so that by 1954 he began playing more live dates at college auditoriums than at jazz clubs. In a DownBeat article, booking agent Larry Bennett raved, “Dave is the vogue among American college kids” (his emphasis). Brubeck even made the cover of Time on November 8, 1954, only the second jazz musician ever to be bestowed the honor (Louis Armstrong was the first a few years earlier). The cover story, which praised Brubeck’s use of classical influences and his good reputation among jazz critics, also noted that he was on pace to earn over $100,000 in 1954, a princely sum for any jazz musician at the time.

The media weren't the only people digging cool jazz. The readers' polls of jazz magazines were filled with white musicians. In the 1954 DownBeat Readers Poll, cool stars Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, and Dave Brubeck finished among the top two vote-getters for outstanding performance on their respective instruments. Only Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie among the beboppers could come close to the stars of cool jazz in the poll. More telling, though, were the vote tallies for Personality of the Year, in which readers voted for the most outstanding jazz musician of the year. Three white musicians from the cool school placed in the top five, with Dave Brubeck collecting the most votes. Conspicuously absent from the top five in 1954 were the black titans of bebop, Parker and Gillespie, who were still making quality music at the time. These poll results, from a magazine which catered largely to white middle-class tastes, reflect the ambivalence of DownBeat readers to bebop, despite the glowing praise heaped on bebop in every issue. Similar results occurred in the other major jazz periodical of the era, Metronome. In his autobiography, Miles Davis recounts a recording session he attended in 1950 as a member of Metronome’s All Star Band. In a band whose members were selected by the magazine’s readers,
Everybody was white... except for me and Max [Roach]. Bird didn’t even make it– they picked Lee Konitz over him, Kai Winding over J.J. Johnson [on trombone], and Stan Getz over all them great black tenor players.
Seeing a bunch of white musicians capture the hearts and minds of the mainstream media was undoubtedly frustrating. Jazz musicians had been promoting their music as an African American art form long before hard bop. In the mid-1950s, the notion of jazz as black music was widely accepted. One of the reasons musicians infused hard bop with black culture was to reinforce this idea. This was a mentality that was exclusive by nature, and had the effect of rhetorically shutting out white musicians.

It is no coincidence that the late 1950s and 1960s were also a period during which black musicians were openly questioning the authenticity of white jazz musicians. Nat Hentoff (who was among the most perspective jazz critics when it came to issues of race) wrote about this phenomenon in a 1959 article for Esquire. He mentions one musician whose friends criticized him for playing with white bandmates, telling him that his band “wouldn’t swing at all” without his contributions. Another black musician quoted by Hentoff had been living “close to starvation” for a few months while trying to establish himself in New York, but persisted because he felt that he possessed “the authenticity that many white musicians lacked.” Cannonball Adderley told DownBeat in 1961 that he could distinguish a white musician from a black musician simply by hearing both on record. His brother, Nat, said a black musician was automatically more apt to play music with “more jazz feeling” than a white musician simply because the black musician grew up in an environment where he was surrounded by black music.

This is not to say that white musicians could not play hard bop. Adderley himself would hire Joe Zawinul to play in his band - who would also go on to write "Mercy Mercy Mercy." Art Blakey hired Chuck Mangione in the mid-1960s - and there are fewer musicians whiter than Chuck Mangione. Hard bop as a style not easily copied by white musicians. You had to be well-versed in black culture to play good hard bop, otherwise you would be open to accusations of "contrived funk," to borrow a phrase from noted critic Ira Gitler.

Rather than a style designed to purge white musicians from jazz, hard bop was an effort by black musicians to reassert their ethnicity in an art form which they argued developed organically as a fusion of various African American folk roots. Black musicians used this belief to reinforce and justify their own supremacy in jazz. Thus, when Horace Silver explained that he was playing “tunes white guys can’t play,” he reflected a desire to reconnect jazz to African American culture and reestablish black musicians as the vanguard of jazz. In hard bop, blackness became a mode of performance rather than a biological distinction. Hard bop musicians were saying "I'm black and I'm proud" a full decade before James Brown used the phrase in his own music.

*Though his father was born in Cape Verde, Horace Silver identified himself as a black man.

Recommended Readings and Discography

This list is just a starting off point, in alphabetical order by artist. On the recordings list, most of these musicians have many albums that can be considered hard bop, I've simply listed my favorites. If you want to purchase any of these items, please check out my Amazon.com store.

  • Cannonball Adderley: Somethin' Else and Mercy Mercy Mercy!
  • Art Blakey: Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Moanin', and Roots and Herbs, though really any album he put out under the Jazz Messengers moniker qualifies for hard bop. Ditto for Horace Silver.
  • Clifford Brown and Max Roach: At Basin Street
  • Kenny Burrell: Midnight Blue
  • John Coltrane: Blue Train
  • Miles Davis: Cookin', Milestones, 'Round About Midnight, Walkin', and Workin'.
  • Art Farmer, Modern Art
  • Herbie Hancock: Takin' Off
  • Joe Henderson: Inner Urge and Our Thing
  • Charles Mingus: Blues & Roots, The Clown, Mingus Dynasty
  • Hank Mobley: Soul Station and No Room For Squares
  • Wes Montgomery: The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
  • Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder
  • Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus, Way Out West
  • Horace Silver: Blowin’ the Blues Away and Horace Silver and The Jazz Messengers
  • Jimmy Smith: Home Cookin' and The Sermon!

  • Scott DeVeaux: The Birth of Bebop
  • Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler: The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz
  • Ted Gioia: West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California 1945-1960
  • LeRoi Jones: Blues People: Negro Music in White America
  • Robert G. O’Meally, ed.: The Jazz Cadence of American Culture
  • Burton Peretti: Jazz in American Culture
  • Eric Porter: What is This Thing Called Jazz?: African American Musicians As Artists, Critics, and Activists
  • David H. Rosenthal: Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music 1955-1965
  • Scott Saul: Freedom Is, Freedom Ain’t: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties
  • Arthut Taylor: Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews
  • Martin Williams, ed.: The Art of Jazz

05 February 2009

Must Read

I don't read much architectural criticism at all, but I always read every new Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale school of architecture,
Architecture students should be exposed to the widest possible range of contemporary ideas in order to find their own way. In the process, they will learn the most important lesson of architectural history: There are no right and wrong styles, only well- and poorly conceived buildings.
Well put, indeed. In an environment where artists and critics turn simple disagreements over style into armed conflicts (think of the Jazz Wars), it is important for us to remember that though the stakes may seem high, let's keep our cool.

04 February 2009

Review: For All I Care

The Bad Plus Joined by Wendy Lewis
For All I Care

Since first being acknowledged by mainstream media outlets, The Bad Plus have been tagged with the unfortunate label of the Jazz Trio That Covers Popular Songs (see, for instance, this NPR profile from 2003). This is unfortunate on multiple levels. The band is comprised of serious (and seriously talented) musicians who take great care in their choice of repertoire (i.e. they do not play covers for the sake of playing covers, but because they can make an interesting artistic statement by doing so). Focusing on their covers also ignores the fact that all three band members (Reid Anderson, Ethan Iverson, and Dave King) can write good tunes (see, for example, "Big Eater" from These Are the Vistas and "And Here We Test Our Powers Of Observation" from Give, both written by Anderson).

Besides being (unfairly, in my opinion) tagged as a covers band in some quarters, The Bad Plus have been further misunderstood by writers who claim their usage of covers is simply a snarky attempt at irony. The band addressed this misconception directly on their blog (read it here), so I won't belabor the point, but suffice it to say the characterization of the band as ironic jesters misses the mark.

With that in mind, I was surprised to find out that the band's newest album, For All I Care, would not only be comprised entirely of covers, but would also feature a vocalist, Wendy Lewis. For a jazz ensemble that's had to deal with the stigma that comes along with covering pop tunes, this is an unexpected turn of events.

That is not to say that I did not like the album. Like much of their other work, For All I Care features the same inventive take on familiar material as their other albums. One of the most impressive traits of The Bad Plus is the way they make covers their own. If you weren't familiar with any of the tunes on the album, you would be forgiven for assuming they were written by any of The Bad Plus. Of course, if it were up to me, I would have cut a few tracks off of this album to make room for a few originals from any of the band members.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the album is the way the band utilizes Lewis' vocals. Instead of placing her at the forefront of the group, she instead serves as somewhat of an accompaniment to the counter-melodies and rhythmic figures running underneath the band's arrangements. Before listening to the album, I wondered whether Lewis would steal too much of The Bad Plus' thunder, but for the most part, she fits in well. Her soft-burning vocals on "Comfortably Numb" give the band ample room to roam, while "Radio Cure" allows for plenty of room for exploration between verses.

Another reviewer lamented that by adding vocals, the band lost "the advantage of leaving the words behind, allowing them to shape things in any number of directions." But such a comment ignores the fact that these covers are not about ironic deconstruction, but earnest renderings of cherished material. Like Brad Mehldau, another young musician unafraid to tackle contemporary pop tunes and classic rock, The Bad Plus deftly toes the line between presenting these covers in a familiar context and exploring the creative possibilities inherent in the tunes.

However, the problem with performing covers is the baggage inherent in song selection. While the members of the band (presumably) all like the songs they choose to perform, the same cannot be said of the audience. It doesn't matter what the band does with the tune, I will probably never like "Barracuda." This does not make their rendition of the tune any less satisfying, but it nonetheless detracts from the album somewhat (for me, at least). Indeed, among the highlights of this album for me were the tunes with which I was not familiar, like Stravinsky's "Variation d'Apollon" and Milton Babbit's "Semi-Simple Variations." Nonetheless, For All I Care serves as a welcome addition to The Bad Plus' discography that newcomers and seasoned fans of the group alike would enjoy.

Track Listing: Lithium; Comfortably Numb; Fém (Etude No. 8); Radio Cure; Long Distance Runaround; Semi-Simple Variations; How Deep Is Your Love; Barracuda; Lock, Stock and Teardrops; Variation d’Apollon; Feeling Yourself Disintegrate
Personnel: Ethan Iverson, piano, bells; Reid Anderson, bss, vocals; Dave King, drums, vocals; Wendy Lewis, vocals

BONUS: Read Ethan Iverson's piece from last month's
Jazz Times on adapting modern classical repertoire for The Bad Plus has been posted on the band's blog. Read it here (the piece is below the photos).

Bonus Material

Via YouTube, here's a video of The Bad Plus performing U2's "New Year's Day" with Wendy Lewis in Moscow last December. The audio isn't great, but it is nonetheless a stunning performance.

On an unrelated note, many thanks to Jazz@Rochester for linking the blog this week. Keep up the good work...