Ken Maiuri’s Tuned In
Emily “Birdie” Busch
PHOTO BY BOBBY AMOROSO
Michael T. Fournier
PHOTO BY CAMERON WITTIG
The Bad Plus
There are many things to love about living in the Valley, and one of them is that the brilliant jazz trio The Bad Plus has made it a regular stop on its touring circuit.
Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King were last here on Valentine’s Day for a unique show at Amherst College, performing their interpretation of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” along with their twisty originals and creative covers. They return to the area for a gig at the Iron Horse in Northampton Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Bad Plus is an experimental but playful jazz group with a soft spot for pop music; its covers of hits by megastars like ABBA, Blondie, The Police, Queen and Nirvana are respectful to the melody but can also leap off the cliff into gonzo territory. Sometimes those wild rides can be funny, or at least seem that way at first ... but the group is a powerful unit, capable of serious beauty.
Of all the times I’ve seen The Bad Plus at the Iron Horse, the main image burned into my mind is from the night they played the Pixies’ “Velouria” — it built up such an emotional, swirling force that it felt like a severe and beautiful storm had overtaken the room, as if the walls and ceiling and tables and everyone had fallen away. I was transported.
As good and clever as the band’s covers can be, its original songs are often even better, inside/outside compositions with themes that stick with you even as the musicians start careening through uncharted territory. Their latest album, “Made Possible,” is typically strong. Its opening track “Pound for Pound” makes me wish someone would make a new “Peanuts” special so that The Bad Plus could do the sound track. A highly recommended show!
And if you need something inspiring in the meantime, check out www.dothemath.typepad.com, Iverson’s info-packed and passionate blog. It’s a true labor of love full of interviews with jazz legends, record reviews and thoughts on everything from authors to the sound track music for Doctor Who.
The “Monsters of Talk” tour rolls through the area with a unique night of speakers, featuring zine writers and authors Mike Faloon and Steve Reynolds (reading from their new anthology, “Fan Interference: A Collection of Baseball Rants and Reflections”), Michael T. Fournier (author of the 33 1/3 book on The Minutemen’s “Double Nickels on the Dime,” with a new anthology entitled “Kayfabe: Strategies Against Slideshows”) and Duncan Wilder Johnson (author of “How I Fell In Love With Punk Rock”). At Flywheel in Easthampton tonight at 7:30.
Onetime Valley musician Ross Bellenoit is now a Philadelphia-based guitarist/songwriter who’s been working with musical artists in that City of Brotherly Love. He’s returning to the area to proudly present and appear with “The Liberty Bell Sessions,” a showcase for singers and musicians with whom he’s collaborated, including Birdie Busch (pictured at right), Chris Kasper and Sonja Sofya. Hear them all at the Montague Bookmill tonight at 8. Bulldog opens.
Athens, Ga., has long been known for its history of angular dance bands (The B-52s, Pylon, R.E.M.) and then psychedelic-leaning pop ensembles (Olivia Tremor Control, Elf Power, Of Montreal, Casper & the Cookies), but also born in that mellow Georgia town was sludge/doom duo Jucifer (pictured at left). The band’s massive amplification and brutal sound, supplied by guitarist Gazelle Amber Valentine and drummer Edgar Livengood, headlines a big bill — including locals Problem With Dragons, The Money$, The Prozacs and more — at The Elevens Monday at 9 p.m.
Red June is an acoustic trio from the beautiful town of Asheville, N.C. Its blend of bluegrass, country and old-time sounds is featured at this week’s Watermelon Wednesdays show, at the West Whately Chapel on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Singer-songwriters Carolyn Walker, Lexi Weege and Seth Newton make up the triple bill at the Rendezvous on Turners Falls Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Free show.