The proliferation of the smooth jazz movement has often obscured the so-called purity of jazz that has historically made the genre an art form. In many instances, instrumental pop has driven jazz down to a level whereby mundane has become the norm. Nowadays the level of anticipated excitement over the release of a new album has been diminished by assembly line styled generic placebos. But every now and again a spark is ignited that once again illuminates jazz as an art form, while also highlighting some superb craftsmanship in the process. Bad Plus is a group that prominently displays tactics that have traditionally made jazz music a household name, long before the advent of smooth jazz pop ideology. The trio's latest CD entitled Prog has turned the heads of many purists with a creative display of anatomically correct jazz.
On Prog, Bad Plus has laid claim to the work of some of rock’s most storied musicians and painted a mosaic of cover songs. Tracks such as "Everybody Wants To Rule the World," "Life On Mars," "Iron Man" and "Heart of Glass" have all been illuminated by Tears for Fears, David Bowie, Black Sabbath and Blondie at various times. Better yet, to do so with a jazz trio adds a spin of a different sort in an arena where rock music is seldom re-visited by other genres. But Bad Plus has defied the critics and nay Sayers by recording a CD that many jazz purists thought would be of little significance; however, what few aficionados care to remember is jazz has always gone against the grain of expectations and traditions.
Prog is Bad Plus’ fourth album overall and their first for the Heads Up International Record Label. With the release of this latest effort, the trio has taken a number of over done rock standards, turned them upside down by adding a healthy helping of straight ahead jazz and the rest is a beautiful blending of naturalized talent. The impact of this release is tremendous by conventional standards, as one examines the improvisational characteristics of Prog. Through 10 successive tracks of rock-influenced jazz, Bad Plus’ work speaks a promise of hope filled content worth listening to. Without a doubt, it is refreshing to see a group that is willing to operate outside the box by taking chances in the face of doubt. Prog definitely goes the distance towards dispelling the notion that jazz is dead.