The Bad Plus is bad (in a good way), plus they play free shows in places such as Boise. They are advertised as a jazz/prog-rock trio. But having listened to their most recent record, I've pretty much determined that it's just jazz. Yes, it's progressive and rockin' and they cover songs from such artists as Tears for Fears and David Bowie, but nevertheless, it's jazz. The first track is a rendition of the Tears for Fears hit, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," which, in a jazz context and with the Bad Plus' take on it, becomes much more of a beautiful song than the Tears for Fears original version—even if it borders on having an elevator/muzak sort of feel.
There is no doubt that the players in the Bad Plus are sick, maybe even chronically ill. And Prog is an amazing and energetic testament to that fact. I personally loved listening to it, and I'm sure my jazz nerd friends will love to hear it. But it's definitely not for everyone. There are moments of pure and intense chaos that could give someone with a fragile disposition an anxiety attack. Thankfully, however, these moments are always resolved into a sublime and peaceful jazzy feeling. Also, there is a liberal use of unconventional time signatures that are challenging and interesting to the ear but might confuse the average listener. All criticism aside, the Bad Plus has managed to be forward-thinking and progressive in a genre in which not many artists have even tried to be either in decades. Some say jazz is dead, but the Bad Plus proves that there is still new ground to be covered.
Sept. 7, 8 p.m., FREE, the Grove Plaza, 850 W. Front St.