September 2006


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I have been considered a source of concern of late at the office. Let’s just say that my anger is not always managed as well as my superiors would like it to be.

Let’s also say that over here, the moment you raise your voice abve 40 dB sends shivers down every seemcitian’s spine, reminding them of their days in the Army or their constant childhood abuse, or I don’t know what else. It leaves both me and Luca very, very puzzled.

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Yes, I have become angrier ever since I have been here. Yes, I do sometimes lose my cool and start shouting (not at people, but around people, big difference). Yes, I come from another culture, one in which dialogue is welcome and encouraged, even when it includes the occasional curse word. No, I am not going ballistic, and no, I will not come back in the office tomorrow with a swiss army knife and hack my way through rows of cubicles.

It seems that people are also scared of me, this coming from various sources above me. I don’t really know what to think of this. Is there something really wrong about the way I have changed these past three years in Seem City? Or is it that I am fundamentally different from the norm here, and no matter how I try to conform, there will always be a side of me that will never fit the resilient and subservient profile of the perfect civil servant?

Whatever it is, there is much more to feel violently happy about. Luca is now walking all alone at great length, and his curiosity about the world gives me hope that things don’t always have to be the way they are here.

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And even in Seem City, there are moments where things are nice, moments spent in the park listening to the symphonic orchestra, improvising a picnic and just watching a sunny Sunday afternoon go by.

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And this, my friends is the antidote.

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And these, my friends, are the active ingredients.

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Think of a world in which the continuum between Beethoven and the Pixies had been left unbroken. Think of a world in which instrumental power jazz would be free of Jamie Cullum. Think of a world where modern classical vamps would contain 0% clayderman fat and where innocent boppy pop tunes would not spell b-r-i-t-n-e-y.

Now think of the Bad Plus.

 

I don’t know if they would be happy reading this introduction, but something tells me they would not disagree so much. I mean, how many times do you come across a traditional piano trio combo sounding like both Schubert and Soul Coughing at the same time?

It amazes me how much music there is out there that is still unknown to a lot of people, how even the Bad Plus (which, if one goes by their presence in the international festival circuits and their contract to Sony, is not an obscure group) were unknown to me until a month ago. You’ve got to thank the people who go through my orders at amazon.com for suggesting them to me…

And you’ve got to thank Pandora. The best thing since wonderbra (or was it wonderbread, I’m not sure…)

 

Suspicious activity is their latest, and probably best, album, because it features more long tunes from Reid Anderson, the bassist. His sense for the intrinsic beauty of melody is brutally honest, in a time where music has never been so redundant and inward-looking. Listen to Prehensile dream or lost of love and try to be cynical about it: there is not a hint of misplaced sentimentalism, not a note that should not be where it is. It speaks the truth, pure and simple.

 

But the Bad Plus are more than that, and they’re more than the sum of its brilliant parts. Dave King is the beefiest non-straight-rock drummer that jazz is seeing right now, and Ethan Iverson’s left hand is scary. His right hand is scarier.

 

The Bad Plus have a myspace site here.

 

And when you thought it was all over, there is also Happy Apple, but that’s another story…