Personnel: Ethan Iverson (piano); Reid Anderson (synthesizer, electronics); David King (drums).
Audio Mixer: Pete Rende.
Recording information: The Clubhouse (11/2011).
Illustrator: Sherman Iverson.
Two years ago, the Bad Plus released Never Stop, their first album of all-original material. The leaderless ensemble comprised of bassist Reid Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson, and drummer David King looked deeper inside the guts of the "jazz piano trio" than they ever had before. Made Possible extends that approach exponentially and unpredictably. They employ a looser advance here, with more adventurous compositions, arrangements, and the introduction of electronics into their music. Skeletal layers of synths and minimal use of electronic drums augment their acoustic presentation, adding an edgy, textural dimension to the proceedings. It opens with the lovely "Pound for Pound," a stately ballad that shimmers with the trio's trademark lyric beauty while offering more complicated rhythmic assertions inside that architecture. "Seven Minute Mind" is introduced by an angular schematic vamp that suggests melody without stating it. Iverson's panoramic accents and cadences are challenged outright by Anderson's bass and the multivalent layering of King's drumming to create a buzzing, frenetic labyrinth. On "Re-Elect That," King's and Anderson's complex counterpoint creates a knotty, post-punk urgency in an otherwise "straight" post-bop number. Iverson's accents and colorations ride the tune's ridge, punching in geometric, timbral declarations above a series of constantly shifting time signatures. "For My Eyes Only" begins as a pop ballad that gives way to a spacious, delicate bridge -- with glorious pizzicato playing from Anderson. The trio re-creates its foundation with clamorous cogency, resulting in a dramatic conclusion. On the swinging "I Want to Feel Good, Pt. 2" Iverson's hyperkinetic chords chart a lyrical map before exploring sharp-cornered terrain as the tune becomes more episodic, full of synth squiggles and wild references to American themes from Gershwin, Copland, Carmichael, and more. His whirling concordant extensions -- amid numerous abrupt rhythmic stops and starts -- intensify the tune without sacrificing its groove. "In Stitches" commences as an elliptical ballad with gentle yet dazzling syncopation by King. As Iverson and Anderson join in a series of melodic progressions, they formulate a physical response to him. The composition transforms into a feat of musical athleticism, complete with deft feints of abstraction, harmonic humor, and propulsive, forceful expansion. The closer is an elegant, delicately nuanced reading of Paul Motian's haunting "Victoria." Made Possible finds the Bad Plus openly wrestling with the complex interrelationship between rhythm, harmony, and improvisation (individual and collective). It offers a more inviting aural view of the group confronting these questions, and the historic weight and imposing boundaries associated with "the piano trio" in jazz. Rather than try to simply find answers, the Bad Plus engage the listener in the process of asking more questions about music itself. ~ Thom Jurek