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THE BAD PLUS

On Sacred Ground : The Rites Of Spring

Herbst Theatre, SF
October 12, 2012

This was part of SF Performances. A special event that I randomly came across. The Bad Plus  performing Igor Stravinsky’s Rites Of Spring. Yeah-hah. I was waffling right up until 5 of 6 and leaving work (it’s a week of 6 concerts), and I called Gage and he was up for going. Turned out to be fantastic. The Bad Plus are sort of hit or miss – always decent, but sometimes tiring – and sometimes really great (at Herbst with Wendy Lewis, amazing – at Amoeba, short but excellent), and this was definitely one of their great ones. Two sets – 1st set Stravinsky; 2nd set originals. THE RITES OF SPRING: There was a video display at first in front of the the whole stage with a recording of what sounded like spliced edits of the original that drew up when they started playing. The rest of the piece, there was some standardvideos behind them – but it was indifferent. The music though was anything but. They played the whole thing – a 40 minute, continuous slab of constantly shifting and extremely varied music. And they did a fantastic job at capturing the spirit of the piece and updating it, with all its difficulties and abstractions and abrasiveness – and this was very abrasive music. Loud, aggressive, chaotic and wonderful. Amazingly, although the drums were very integrated, and the music never repeated but quite specific, King had no sheet music and played the entire 40 mins from memory and feel (??? – bewildering) – and perfectly too. It ended and Gage said ‘that was for Jeff – dark and difficult’ – which it was to the max. He also described it as “definitely overwhelmingly bombastic” which pretty much sums it up.

2nd set was a wonderful set of originals – one of the best sets I’ve seen of them – tight but energetic, the songs good and worked out, all playing really well – Iverson even ripping off some very busy, very full almost concerto piano clusters. Reid introed the 2nd set with ‘we opened with a Stravinsky piece that we like to use as a little warm up’. A great original Reelect That with King on the brushes in a very impressive way – and how often do I say that – even a fantastic brush solo. Great tunes Seven Minute Mind and In Stitches (both Anderson) and an encore of Never Stop – which I love.  Great show.

1st set

1. Rites Of Spring 

2nd set

1. Pound For Pound

2. Wolf Out

3. Reelect That

4. Seven Minute Mind

5. In Stitches

6. Never Stop        (encore)

ETHAN IVERSON – piano

REID ANDERSON – bass

DAVID KING – drums

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 ARCHIE SHEPP QUARTET

Yoshis, Oakland
October 11, 2012
10pm set

Never seen Archie before – was debating about this – plus, Yoshis, both of them, have SUCKED of late, and I haven’t been in quite a while. It’s like I’m mad at them, and justifiably so since for years they were the best thing about the Bay Area, now they Kenny G and John Tesh multiple times a year (though this month there’s this, plus Tyshawn Sorey(!) and Ron Carter). But notice, 6 awesome shows in a week – none that seemed necessary, but all overstepped their expectations and were excellent – and only 1 of them at Yoshis. Oh well. Anyways, I found ½ price ticket on Goldstar, so went to the 10pm set only. Shepp is, what, 75? (looked it up, he is) – but still playing very much the same, it seems – great, rich tone, babbles a bit, but nails excellent soulful lines in there, plus that edgy, 60’s out hint to everything. Other than Sharpe, I hadn’t heard of the other 2, but they played great – solid drumming, and excellent piano solos. The band had a  real nice hustle and movement to it . Archie blowing longtime, with his rich tone. McClung ripped off some very good solos, and his original “Burning Bright” was one of the better tunes of the night.

Sharpe – damn, that guy can play some bass – strumming and everything. A really nice band. Archie sang, improving I think, on 2 tunes. The lyrics seemed to follow tunes I thought I knew (Come Sunday, My Ideal, I think), but the lyrics were not those lyrics, so I think he was just going at it with whatever. Decent though. He’s an odd duck – someone I’ve never really wrapped my head around – you think he’s a free jazz guy, or a politically intense player, but then he plays way more inside than most (with rumbling solos and out notes and an out edge, but the tunes are in the pocket), or he’ll croon his way through a tune, all wispy and Johnny Hartman-ish. 1st tune was a long, rambling tenor solo – but they tightened up from there on with some nice Archie playing and all. A very pleasantly surprising, very good show. Good stuff Mr. Shepp.

set list

1. Hope 2

2. My Ideal

3. Un Petite Surprise Pour Mademoiselle

4. Come Sunday

5. The Stars Are In Your Eyes

6. Burning Bright

ARCHIE SHEPP – tenor sax, vocals

TOM McCLUNG – piano

AVERY SHARPE – bass

STEVE McCRAVEN – drums

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