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The Bad Plus Joshua Redman - NPR: First Listen

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For the last two years, pianist Ethan Iverson has been at the center of what looks, in hindsight, like a serious creative whirlwind. He re-conceptualized Stravinsky's ballet The Rite Of Spring in its entirety (!) for his trio The Bad Plus, and then, for good measure, recorded an album of all-original Bad Plus music (Inevitable Western). He recorded two crisply swinging trio albums with the drummer and jazz elder Albert "Tootie" Heath. He anchored the acclaimed quartet led by drummer Billy Hart (the group's 2014 release One Is The Other turned up on many best-of lists), and was part of another multi-generation group with pioneering saxophonist Lee Konitz. All while writing Do The Math, one of the most lucid, carefully reasoned blogs on contemporary music.

The work ethic is impressive, and arguably unique. But what makes Iverson extraordinary is the focused way he's managed these endeavors: He understands that each project has its own demands, aspirations and intended audience. He keeps things separate, drawing clear distinctions between his brainier compositional forays and his more reverential, sometimes scholarly investigations of jazz tradition. He does his serious innovating alongside bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King in The Bad Plus, then gets his jazz on with the hot shots and legends who understand all his zany references and inside jokes.

This career strategy is tested on The Bad Plus Joshua Redman, a roaring and beautiful summit meeting that has no precedent in Iverson's discography. The first thing to know about it: Though Redman is among the most accomplished living practitioners of the jazz tenor saxophone, and can be counted on to shred on demand in a small group context, this is not a jazz date.

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