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The Bad Plus

These are the Vistas

Columbia

Sardonically laced jazz trio The Bad Plus gets to record their second album for a major label, and are already raking in rave reviews for their live shows. Don't expect that to change with the release of this album. Bringing rock producer Tschad Blake in demonstrates their refusal to play by the book, and it serves them well musically, too -- this is a hard, focused album that should both piss off and impress the jazz and rock clientele in equal measures.

Musically, the trio's use of humorous phrases and efficient to-the-point arrangement stands apart, but never overshadows their sheer instrumental prowess -- drummer Dave King is especially impressive throughout, his fiery attack and energetic presence pushing the music forward and upwards.

The cover versions will probably garner the most attention, but perhaps not always deservedly so: "Smells Like Teen Spirit" doesn't necessarily lend itself particularly well to their jazzy approach, and is the album's single big miss. Much more successful is their revered interpretation of Aphex Twin's "Flim," and, particularly, Blondie's "Heart Of Glass," the latter being offered up as a comedy piece performed with substance and passion.

Elsewhere, the standout tracks include the sweeping, expansive "Silence is the Question," the crouching cartoon jazz of "Keep the Bugs Off Your Glass and the Bears Off Your Ass," and the delightfully direct expressions of "Everywhere You Turn." The album may be too all over the place to truly impress, and there's little doubt that they're above all a frantically entertaining live act.

Columbia Records: http://www.columbiarecords.com