By Erin Jardine
June 24, 2015
VANCOUVER — It is rare, at a ticketed Jazz Fest event, that I am equally excited for both the openers and the headliners, but that is what I was in for on the evening of Joshua Redman & the Bad Plus. Having listened to many albums from both Kneebody and Joshua Redman & the Bad Plus, I was still unprepared for the awe I felt in witnessing both groups live.
Like all other Jazz Fest shows, the performance started on time and the audience buzzed with excitement. Kneebody is a young and enthusiastic five-piece that exuded youthful excitement at sharing the stage with the Bad Plus. Saxophonist Ben Wendel’s entire body convulsed over his unique and prolonged lines, producing a sound entirely unique and captivating. The structure of Kneebody’s tunes, with unique time signatures, shone through thanks to Nate Wood’s drumming. The set had huge variety. Songs would start with a solo on any instrument, and have gradual buildups to an entirely different set of sounds by the end.
Stellar songwriting was the biggest impression I took away from Joshua Redman & the Bad Plus. The album that these collaborators released together — this year’s The Bad Plus Joshua Redman — was an explosion of what happens when improv-minded artists and composition experts collide. Spontaneity dominated their set, but with announced song titles and cheeky introductions in between. Reid Anderson’s well known “Dirty Blonde” and Redman’s “Friend or Foe” are tunes to listen to and compare the departure of different writing styles. The Bad Plus, as a group, was defined by Ethan Iverson’s piano. His fingers would flatten for a departure from conventional piano technique, and although never as loud and invasive as the horns in the ensemble, they were a worthy presence for soloing.
Both bands shared a confident, modern and quirky stage presence, a contrast from the sophisticated tunes that the older audience enjoyed. Songs were dedicated to Walter White from Breaking Bad. Interludes were light-hearted and it was clear no one on stage took themselves too seriously.BC, British Columbia, Joshua Redman & The Bad Plus, Kneebody, Vogue Theatre