CD Reviews - The Bad Plus 'For All I Care,' Marco Benevento 'Me Not Me'

Friday, March 27, 2009

THE BAD PLUS "For All I Care" Heads Up MARCO BENEVENTO "Me Not Me" Royal Potato Family

RED FLAGS tend to go up whenever a jazz ensemble, even one known for its pop enthusiasm, recruits a vocalist for a recording session. But indie rocker Wendy Lewis's contributions to the Bad Plus's latest CD prove more compatible than calculated.

True to form, the trio overhauls familiar tunes with fitful rhythms and a dissonant attack on "For All I Care." Yet with Lewis on board, the album's focus swings wide open. A dense and willfully disjointed version of Nirvana's "Lithium" kicks things off, followed by an odd assortment of curiously arranged pop and rock tunes. At her best, Lewis adds a haunting dimension to the band's offbeat reworkings of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," Wilco's "Radio Cure" and the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love." Elsewhere, pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King can be found out on a classical limb, saluting the likes of Stravinsky, Babbitt and Ligeti with wit and honed interplay.

Likewise, keyboardist Marco Benevento doesn't play it safe when revisiting some of his favorite pop things. Though the onetime Hammond B-3 organist mostly emphasizes piano on his trio's new release, "Me Not Me," the album is an intriguing sonic mosaic, colored by a weird array of instruments (Mellotron, vintage pump organ, Optigan drums) and dotted with a few improvised jags. Indeed, Benevento's takes on tunes recorded by Leonard Cohen ("Seems So Long Ago Nancy"), Led Zeppelin ("Friends") and My Morning Jacket ("Golden") are as surprising as they are textured. Rounding out the CD are three original compositions that complement the imaginatively skewed covers.

-- Mike Joyce

The Bad Plus appears Sunday with Marcus Benevento at Rams Head Tavern (410-268-4545, Show starts at 8:30 p.m.

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