Best Live Performance of 2011: RITE ON THE BEAT

This year, The Bad Plus took on a huge to task to reinterpret Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”. To imagine the immensely colorful and heavy orchestration of “The Rite” boiled down to a jazz piano trio aesthetic can be uneasing at first. There are so many intricacies to the work as a whole; even the orchestral version of the piece is quite daunting and widely considered one of the most challenging pieces written in the 20th century.  If there was any piano trio that would be capable of performing the Rite of Spring live, it would have to be The Bad Plus. The group is renown for its daring and raucous, punk like attitude towards jazz and rhythm. There is a high level of reverence for this masterwork in their rendering and it is clear that the group takes the act of interpreting this piece very seriously. When the trio was first asked if they would agree to this perform this concert as the artists in residence at Duke University, the first response from the group was simply, WHY? The Rite of Spring is considered sacred and a masterpiece of orchestration from the 20th century, why would the Bad Plus, a humble jazz piano trio dare approach this massively challenging score?

When the group first tackled their assignment it started to become clear that not only could they perform the entire piece as an arrangement from the score but they could maintain its dynamic nature while infusing it with their own characteristic style of playing. You can checkout the live recording of the world premier here.

The first player starts with a fascinating interview with the band and Josh Jackson of WBGO, the second player is the entirety of the performance.

Let us know what the best show you saw was in 2011!

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