Ken Maiuri's Tuned In: Music this week in the Valley

  • Lula Wiles

  • LuxDeluxe

  • Minibeast

  • The Magnetic Fields

  • The Bad Plus

Published: 11/17/2016 2:40:15 PM

Getting a friend or loved one to experience your favorite art with you — a movie, a song, a live performance — is one of the best things, but like any time you open your heart, it can be dicey. Decades ago, I tried to get my buddy Rhonda to watch Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.” She made a withering comment about three minutes in; I totally deflated. We played a board game instead.

But for 14 years now I’ve been unreservedly urging people to go see The Bad Plus, a playful and powerful jazz trio from Minneapolis, and there’s never any withering or deflating. Every time the band spins through town, I’m in the audience falling in love all over again, excited for the people who get to experience the band for the first time.

Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, drummer David King — daring musicians with a sense of humor. It’s there in their dry between-song banter, and sometimes it shows up in the way their songs are arranged, their bravura leaving you so breathless it’s funny. Like “Epistolary Echoes,” which has a tumbling theme knotty enough to give you whiplash, but in the middle of the melodic maze, they’ve stuck the catchiest little hand-clapping melody. It’s a joyous prize each time it appears.

And to go with the ace musicianship and rollercoaster excitement, The Bad Plus has a big romantic heart, beating fiercely inside songs like “Everywhere You Turn” and “Silence Is the Question” and turning wistful for “Forces” or “Pound for Pound.” If new Peanuts specials ever get created, the producers should hire The Bad Plus to be Vince Guaraldi’s successors.

The trio got my attention in 1999 because they were the first jazz artists I’d ever known to cover Nirvana (numerous folks have done it since), but I became a real fan because of their original songs and the band’s collective power. There are few groups more capable of starting with a melody so hauntingly simple and then, almost imperceptibly, growing it into a dangerous weather pattern that descends on the room. I’ve found myself welling up with emotion during some of their stormiest moments, in awe and wrapped up in the music, thankful to be present as the roof blows off the joint.

The Bad Plus’ latest record is “It’s Hard,” on which they cover songs by Prince, Johnny Cash, Cyndi Lauper, Barry Manilow, Kraftwerk and others, with varying degrees of beauty and chaos.

Jazz fans! Curious adventurous music lovers! Improve your week by seeing The Bad Plus at the Iron Horse in Northampton Sunday at 7 p.m. Highly recommended.

Stephin Merritt, aka The Magnetic Fields, first burst into the greater public consciousness with his clever, beautiful and self-explanatory box set “69 Love Songs.” And now, to celebrate his 50th birthday, he has another multi-disc concept album on the way in spring 2017, titled “50 Song Memoir” — one song for each year. The world premiere for this new project finds Merritt and an expanded seven-piece band performing all 50 songs over two nights (the first 25 on night one, the second 25 on night two) for an event that’s more than a concert: Merritt and company are collaborating with director Jose Zayas and a crew of projection, set and lighting designers to create a unique, fully staged event. “50 Song Memoir” takes place at MASS MoCA in North Adams Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone plays his old band’s hits (“I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am,” “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” “I’m Into Something Good”) and other faves from that era at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton Friday at 8 p.m. Opening the show is the Union Jack British Invasion Band.

LuxDeluxe plays its big fall bash at the Red Barn at Hampshire College in Amherst Friday at 9 p.m., for which it’ll be joined by opening acts Two Girls (from Philadelphia), Henry Mosher (of The Blisters) and local combo Spirit Ghost. Free, all ages and open to everyone.

Minibeast (featuring Peter Prescott of Mission of Burma, playing “environmental rhythm music”), locals Bunnies (hypnotic prog-rock ensemble) and Wydyde (dynamic rock duo) make up the unique triple bill brought to you by Robert Robinson’s Acorns in the Blender Productions, happening at the 13th Floor Music Lounge in Florence Saturday at 9 p.m.

Lula Wiles is a roots trio
of Berklee College of Music grads which has won over crowds with its full-hearted harmonizing. The trio plays The Parlor Room in Northampton Tuesday at
7 p.m.

Local legends Angry Johnnyand theKillbillies throw their annual “Thanks for Nothin’ Party” at the 13th Floor Music Lounge Wednesday at 10 p.m.


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