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Album review: The Bad Plus' 'Never Stop'

Badplus In 10 years of recording, pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King have practically become figureheads for a genre-blind mini-movement in jazz, earning perhaps as much attention for their skewed takes on such modern rock figures as Nirvana and Aphex Twin as they have for their deadly cohesive, virtuosic interplay.

Yet for all the trio’s fondness for giddily unpredictable reinterpretations (culminating with last year’s impressive, all-covers collaboration with vocalist Wendy Lewis, “For All I Care”), its members’ eclectic songwriting styles seemed in danger of being overshadowed. Enter “Never Stop,” the Bad Plus’ eighth album and its first dedicated to all-original compositions. The shift in focus suits them.

King’s martial stomp anchors a spring-loaded piano melody indelible enough for the pop songbook on the title track, while “2 p.m.”  and “You Are” show the trio can still twist through an adventurous workout. But the album’s more spacious excursions such as “People Like You” and “Snowball” may offer the greatest treats, with Iverson and Anderson weaving around King’s feathered percussion for some of the trio’s warmest, most delicate moments yet. There may not be a familiar hook for rock fans to lean on, but odds are they won’t need one, either.

--Chris Barton

The Bad Plus
“Never Stop”
Three and a half stars
E1 Entertainment
 
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