The Bad Plus – Suspicious Activity?

For those individuals who have been inculcated into more pedestrian and popular music, the long-drawn out and intricate compositions that The Bad Plus use on “Suspicious Activity?” may be off-putting, to say the least. The strongest thing that one can say about The Bad Plus is that they are one of the most intense bands currently out on the market. Forget the thrash metal acts, or those bands that use played-out guitar wank-o-ramas; the dense arrangements that are present on the disc’s first track “Prehensile Dream” will whisk an individual away from any real-life mooring and place them squarely into the environment that the band wishes them to be in. The band does try to include some greater audience participation in their second track “Anthem Of The Earnest”.

By toning down their arrangements and incorporating more common styles, The Bad Plus ensure that this is not only an album for Jazz purists. The Spartan arrangements that make up such a large part of “Let Our Garden Grow” move the fulcrum back towards the side of the Jazz purists. Without much in the way of instrumentation at points, the track only begins to capture the ear of the common listener when the arrangements get a little more populous. The disc’s length makes any price one pays for this disc worth it, and is really a challenge to listeners to finish this disc in one listen. “Suspicious Activity?” really is fitting for this album, as it truly is the first blast of fresh air that jazz has had in the last thirty or so years. After the experimentations died down (as traditionalists trumped over Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Weather Report), jazz really fell onto hard times – that is, until The Bad Plus starting shaking things up.

“Lost Of Love” shows the band’s ability to create atmospheres as being up there with the greats; the wistful piano and droning drums show the monotony of life during the title condition. Anyone who has lost a love will find solace in the universality of the track. The Bad Plus has made a strong case with “Suspicious Activity?”, strong enough that it just might be the bridge between the pop-heavy radio stations and those dated-sounding jazz stations present in all major metropoles. The absence of lyrics, as well as the differing arrangements may be hard for casual listeners to absorb, but no one can fault the band for trying to include a larger audience.

Top Tracks: Let Our Garden Grow, Anthem of the Earnest

Rating: 5.1/10

The Bad Plus – Suspicious Activity? / 2005 Sony / 10 Tracks / / / Reviewed 13 August 2005

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