The Bad Plus: The Rite of Spring

"The Rite of Spring" by The Bad PlusHow you feel about Bad Plus‘ re-imagination of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is largely tied to how you approach the album. Classic music buffs may find the Bad Plus’ interpretation of the work as riot-inducing as the original. While Bad Plus fans will recognize many of the band’s hallmarks that made their covers of songs like “Heart of Glass” and “Chariots of Fire Theme” such successes.

Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is largely considered one of the most influential works of the 20th century. Rooted in Russian traditional folk, the work was seen as abstract and aggressive upon first premiere and cause quite a stir. The Bad Plus being quite abstract themselves, work with the original to add flairs of their brand of free jazz. On “Introduction,” Ethan Iverson transposes the iconic opening woodwinds to piano, inflicting his own sense of time and pace to the piece. Midway through the track, sampled strings lift the track until the drop in the form of a female gasp. Post-drop, chaos ensues as the piano sounds like it is melting building up to a loud, raucous crescendo.

The band is then saddled with the task of transposing Stravinsky’s most powerful movement into jazz language. “The Augurs of Spring” when performed in Paris the early 1900s was called things like “inhumane” and “brutal.” What the Bad Plus do with this section does not match the force of the original which is where many classic music buffs seem to get hung up. For a jazz trio, the Bad Plus do create the loudest hits they can and it arguably works for them even though it may seem puny compared to what a full orchestra can do with the section. We hear similar loudness from the Bad Plus while dealing with “Glorification of the Chosen One” later in the ballet where piano hits are enhanced with snare and cymbals to create power.

If you compare the power of the Bad Plus’ crescendos with that of a full orchestra, of course it seems to pale but if you compare their crescendos to the quieter pieces of their own interpretation of The Rite of Spring, the levels work. For those without explicit knowledge of Stravinsky’s century defining work, the Bad Plus do it just while interpolating it into their own free jazz language.

Rating: 7.9/10
MP3: The Bad Plus “Second Part: The Sacrifice: Glorification of the Chosen One”
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