In the years since pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King formed The Bad Plus in 2000, the trio has built a solid reputation as a refreshingly innovative group that brings the energy of rock music to jazz. Made Possible, their 10th album, further enhances that reputation.
On past albums they have notoriously covered an eclectic range of material, including songs from Herb Alpert, Black Sabbath, Ornette Coleman and Nirvana. Here, as on 2010's Never Stop, the trio mainly plays originals with all three members contributing songs. That same ethos is evident in their performances; they all contribute as equals, with no one dominating.
Made Possible opens with Anderson's Pound for Pound. It has a simple, repetitive melody line that Iverson slowly but subtly elaborates, building tension and leading to a storming crescendo, heightened by powerful drumming from King. The track reveals occasional traces of electronics, used by the group for the first time here.
In the main, electronic sounds are integrated discretely for coloration, without radically altering the group sound. The only obvious exception comes on Sing for a Silver Dollar when King deploys electronic drums to fire off a snare volley which sounds just like machine gun fire.
If King's drumming owes as much to rock as jazz, Iverson's playing is all jazz. He clearly has technique in abundance but rarely shows it off, frequently sounding Monk-like in his restraint. When he does cut loose with a solo, as on the brief I Want to Feel Good, Part 2, he shows he can soar with the best of them.
In total contrast, the 14-minute track In Stitches is spacious and evolves slowly. It exhibits a restrained logic reminiscent of The Necks, before coming to a climax driven by King.
Made Possible concludes with its only cover version, a poignant reading of Victoria, by drummer Paul Motian, who died in November 2011. It acts as a fitting tribute, its mournful beauty underpinned by some lovely bass from Anderson and delicate brush-work from King.
From album to album, The Bad Plus continue to evolve and improve.