The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Tuesday, February 2, 2010 - 5
The Bad Plus has been praised by critics for its inventive and creative style.
'U' professors analyze the
evolution of jazz by way of
trio The Bad Plus
By HEATHER POOLE
For the Daily
What does it take for a song or perfor-
mance to earn the
prestigious title of "mas- Masterpieces
terpiece?" A program Revealed:
from the University
Musical Society, "Mas- The Bad Plus
terpieces Revealed," is
dedicated to uncovering Tonight at 7 p.m.
the elements requisite to UMMA Commons
such acclaim. Tonight, Free
one such element will be
explored in particular: inventiveness.
Professor of Jazz and Contemporary
Improvisation Andrew Bishop, along with
Professor of Music Theory Andrew Mead,
will lead tonight's session devoted to the
music of up-and-coming jazz trio The Bad
Plus, comprised of bassist Reid Anderson,
pianist Ethan Iverson and drummer David
King. Since the group's debut in 2000, its
inventive and creative performances and
adaptations have gained national recogni-
tion from music publications like Rolling
Stone and The New York Times.
The series is designed to examine the
work of artists included on the UMS bill
of performances, and this lecture accom-
panies The Bad Plus's concert at the Lydia
Mendelssohn Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 4.
The University of Michigan Museum of
Art plays host to tonight's presentation,
and its website describes the lecture series
"In the 'Masterpieces Revealed' series,
local artists provide a step-by-step explora-
tion of some of the artistic works presented
on the UMS season through live perfor-
mance and discussion, deconstructing the
nuances of performance and explaining
what turns a piece into a 'masterpiece.'"
Even though it's often classified as a
"traditional" jazz group, The Bad Plus
transcends this label, moving into the ter-
ritory of the musically masterful.
"The Bad Plus uses a traditional jazz
piano trio (piano, bass and drums) but per-
forms music from a wide variety of artists,
not just jazz composers," Bishop wrote in an
e-mail interview with The Michigan Daily.
Bishop's program will incorporate a live
performance by The Bad Plus and a discus-
sion with Mead and University students.
"I will be breaking down why artists
stray from the standard repertoire, such
as composers like Duke Ellington," Bishop
wrote. "I will mostly be talking about why
jazz musicians are interested in exploring
musical landscapes outside the traditional
In addition to his extensive knowledge
of jazz, Bishop has personal relations to
The Bad Plus from past collaborations
with Anderson that should give his com-
ments some particular insight into the
trio's musical inspiration.
"Reid is an amazing musician. We did
one recording together - Gerald Cleaver's
'Adjust.' He is an extremely versatile musi-
cian," Bishop wrote.
Like Bishop, Mead is interested in how
The Bad Plus breaks through traditions in
music. In demonstrating the originality of
its music, Mead and Bishop will focus on
The Bad Plus's rendition of Milton Bab-
bitt's "Semi-Simple Variations."
"Babbitt is known - is even notorious -
for writing music that is highly structured
and not immediately appealing - at least
to the average concert-goer," Mead wrote.
"So for a jazz group to be playing his music
would seem really contra-intuitive."
Mead attributes the success of The Bad
Plus to its distinctive approach to jazz in
comparison to historical traditions. This
atypical musical style can be seen in the
group's adaptation of "Semi-Simple Varia-
"Obviously, things like free jazz and
other developments over the past 50 or
60 years have enlarged and enriched the
range of possibilities in jazz, buta continu-
ous thread throughout has been the idea of
improvisation," Mead wrote.
"(The Bad Plus), in playing Babbitt's
piece, is playing an interesting game with
this tradition, in that they are presenting,
for the most part, a straight-ahead reading
of a fully notated piece for solo piano," he
Mead also commended the way The Bad
Plus successfully adapts "Semi-Simple
Variations" to its own style.
And really, that's what this presentation
is all about: how jazz is being interpreted
by modern music makers. It will explore
how the jazz musicians of today are mak-
ing new masterpieces based on how the
cool cats used to jive. The program, while
music oriented, is not particularly techni-
cal, Bishop said, and should allow students
from all different backgrounds to learn
Has anyone other than my fellow
TV lovers at the Daily real-
ized how many ghost-hunting
shows are on TV
these days? "Ghost
Lab," "The Haunted,"
"Ghost Hunters" and
its spin-offs "Ghost t
tional" and "Ghoste
all came out fairly CAROLYN
recently (with the KLARECKI
exception of the orig-
inal "Ghost Hunters,"
which aired in 2004).
And because networks keep spewing
out this repetitive programming, I guess
someone must be watching and enjoying
it. But let's be honest, "Ghost Hunters"
isn't a brilliant and incredibly well exe-
cuted concept. And even if it were, does
anyone appreciate the products of dirty
idea-stealing and show-copying?
Hopping on the good-idea bandwag-
on isn't anew thing for TV. It's really to
be expected these days. Before ghosts,
we had dancing. "Dancing with the
Stars" came out the same year as "So
You Think You Can Dance" and not too
much later the world was blessed with
a lesser-known gem "Pants-Off Dance-
Off." Based on titles alone, I think we
all know which one isn't around today.
Sometimes the drama surrounding
having a stake in the next big thing
is more exciting than the shows that
come of it. Remember NBC's "The
Singing Bee" and FOX's "Don't Forget
the Lyrics!"? The concept was exactly
the same, they premiered within one
day of each other and they were both
hosted by charming B-list celebrities
(comedian Wayne Brady for FOX and
former 'N Sync member Joey Fatone
for NBC). Neither show was spectacu-
lar, but the race to air first was epic.
And when we've passed the point
of network competition, we get rein-
carnates. "If you loved this show, just
wait for our 40 dozen spin-offs!" the
networks scream. We're practically
assaulted with competitive reality
shows that can be described by inter-
changing the words "hair stylist,"
"fashion designer" and "chef." Not
only do we have "CSI," "Law & Order"
and "NCIS," but we also get "CSI: NY,"
"CSI: Miami," "Law & Order: Special
Victims Unit," "Law & Order: Criminal
Intent," "Law & Order: Crime & Pun-
ishment," "Law & Order: Trial by Jury"
and "NCIS: Los Angeles."
It's frustrating. When I turn on the
TV, I don't want to be bombarded with
the same show reinvented and repack-
aged as though the network executives
think I won't noticed I'm being fed
But before we give up on TV, let's take
a look at the larger picture. Trending
is common in all forms of art. Novels
have undergone romanticism, realism
and transcendentalism. We have cub-
ism, impressionism and pop art in the
realm of visual arts. And music has
been revolutionized by rock, soul, hip
hop, grunge, indie, techno and scores of
other genres all in the past 50 years.
But no one ever complained that Tho-
reau totally copied Emerson and no one
ever got sick of Picasso's repetitive style.
And even though lo-fi indie bands with
buttery smooth melodies and haunt-
ingly poetic lyrics outnumber water
molecules on Earth, tons of people still
listen to and love the sound-alikes.
These trends are considered "move-
ments," but television doesn't get the
luxury of a pretty title. In the fine arts,
the creators are allowed to expand upon
ideas and concepts from each other
without criticism, but on TV it's brand-
ed as repetitive, annoying and even
insulting. No one is going to call the
onslaught of ghost television a "move-
ment," because quite frankly, that's
ridiculous (what movement would that
even be? Paranormalism?). TV can be an
art, and in my mind has every right to
undergo movements. But there are good
reasons why TV is especially prone to
It's all about the
Benjamins, but it
the type of criticism I'm talking about.
TV is inherently commercial. While
writers, musicians and other artists
create primarily for themselves and
personal expression, TV is created as
a commodity. When was the last time
you heard the creator of a TV show say
"I make the shows for myself?"
Some TV creators honestly do love
their stories and jobs, but there is
little room for creative expression and
experimentation in the TV industry,
which relies on ratings much more
than music and film, both of which
have strong indie markets. Artists
should support each other's work, but
network competition and ratings create
bloody battles to the death - we all saw
what happened to Conan.
What the industry needs is a little
more love and tenderness. Shows need
to be created for the sake of creation,
expression and joy. TV needs people
who are passionate about telling sto-
ries, capturing them ina compelling
way and sharingthem with the masses
every week. And while a strong love of
the small screen probably isn't enough
to disrupt 50 years of trying to make
big money off cheap programming, it's
a step in the right direction. If more
people treat TV as an art, a movement
will swiftly follow.
Klarecki has a guest spot on "Law &
Order: Get the Bad Guy." To congratulate
her, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Corinne Bailey Rae
sails a stormy 'Sea'
By LINDSAY HURD
For the Daily
It's not every day a show opens with the
line "Normal cops by day, paranormal cops
by night. We don't rest
until your case is closed."
shows us why.
The producers of this Paranormal
new A&E program want- COPS
ed to put a new twist on
the typical show about the Tuesdays
paranormal (a broad topic at 10:30
covering everything from A&E
psychic kids to haunted
houses), so they opted to
put two common TV ideas together: cops
and ghosts. While the notion is unique,
there's a reason this show hasn't been done
before - it just doesn't make sense.
This new reality series follows Sergeant
Ron Fabiani and other off-duty cops as they
drive around in a van and "help" people
who have unruly ghosts living where they
work. Their first client is Roger, a nighttime
security guard at Big Timers Sound Shop,
who feels a "presence" when he's working
his shift. This presence has apparently got-
ten so bad that he wants to quit his job, but
can't because of his wife and kids. So what
does he do? He calls in the Paranormal
Cops, of course.
For lovers of cop shows, "Paranormal
Cops"=apes programs like "Cold Case" that
investigate crime scenes and work to put
offenders in jail. But in "Paranormal," the
criminal is a ghost and the team never does
anything to get rid of it. Nothing is solved
and criminals are not locked up.
Unfortunately for paranormal aficiona-
dos, the actual "ghost" encounters are obvi-
ously faked by a team of producers. Videos
of dust or bugs flying around at night are
presented as spirits and any hint of activity
in the warehouse is so'exaggerated that it's
cheesy and hard to watch. The team looks
plain crazy as they discuss how to figure out
if a ghost is present and where it came from.
Beret? Check. Cigar? Check. Ghosts? ... Shit.
Needless to say, Roger is probably the sanest
character on the show.
The tackiest part of "Paranormal Cops" is
when the task force investigates the shop ina
nighttime walk-through with the assistance
of a medium who uses ridiculous phrases
like "I feel a weird presence in this room" or
"There is something that I'm not fond of" to
convince the viewers of a spirit's existence.
The crew uses questionably legitimate
high-tech equipment that lights up when-
ever a ghost is near. The combination of
'Go fuck yourselves'
-A made-up ghost.
this "ghost communicator" gadget, which
looks like an old-school snake light, and the
medium's interpretation of ghostly messag-
es results in an overly dramatic, obviously
By the end of their stakeout, the Sergeant
and company bump into a spirit who says
the word "Rosario" a few times. The crew's
background research conveniently reveals
that Big Timers was once a mafia casino
run by mobster Rocco Debrazia, who was
murdered on the premises. Rosario was the
name of his best friend who would. often
come into the casino. What a shocker.
The only hint ofanythingentertaining(but
only because it's the most idiotic thing ever)
is the moment when Sgt. Fabiani and Roger
review sounds collected from the former
crime scene. Instead of whispers of murder
or how the ghost died, Rocco's ghost instead
tells the cops to "Go fuck (themselves)"
During the wrap-up meeting, Fabini and
his team conclude that ... wait for it ... ghosts
exists in Roger's workplace. Yes, let's do
an entire show about how there is a ghost
inhabiting this building only to conclude
there is an actual ghost. Apparently, the
producers of this show are geniuses too. Is
"Paranormal Cops" actively trying to make
itself look idiotic and pre-scripted?
If this is what Fabiani and his gang do
with their spare time to contribute to""pub-
lic safety," someone should tell them to geta
By SHARON JACOBS
The sea, according to English song-
stress Corinne Bailey Rae, is a brooding
and melancholy place.
Rae's solitary journey *
into the open ocean on
her new release The Sea Hin1
comes two years after
her husband's fatal Bailey Rae
methadone and alcohol The Sea
overdose. This back-
story is essential to the Capitol
album, which repre-
sents a departure from the cheery inno-
cence of Rae's self-titled debut.
"He's a real live wire," Rae says of her
late husband in the first line of The Sea.
The opening is a little creepy and dark,
but Rae's intimate voice immediately
wraps the listener in. Murmured memo-
ries of her husband's eyes and the taste
of summer build toward the plaintive cry
of the track's titular line "Are you here"
- there's no question mark. We already
know the answer.
As is typical of Corinne Bailey Rae, the
song feels like a glimpse into a very pri-
vate and personal moment. Listening to
"Are You Here," the subsequent rumina-
tion "I'd Do It All Again" and many of the
other songs on The Sea is like overhearing
Rae's real-time attempt to come to terms
with her husband's untimely death. But
instead of watching from a distance, we
feel the pain and confusion alongside her.
Rae is neither a Beyonc6-fabulous
R&B diva nor a drama-crazy pop star.
Though most of the songs on The Sea are
poppy in structure, Rae has the delicate
touch of an indie singer-songwriter,
baring her soul in a classy and relat-
able way. Her pitch-perfect voice can
carry itself with minimal instrumen-
tation, as she proves on harmonically
simple tracks like "Love's On Its Way."
Anchored by a light guitar-and-percus-
sion backing, Rae spreads her voice thin
for an angelic effect in the gracefully
ascending chorus, only to slip back into
a thick, mournfully tuneful texture in
Though all its tracks are tenderly nos-
talgic, not everything on The Sea is mired
in tragedy. "Paris Nights/New York
Mornings" fondly recalls carefree days in
love. The song is reminiscent of some of
the peppier songs on her first album, but
the images are more mature - "I can see
the lights from the restaurant / I couldn't
quite perfect that nonchalance / Paris
and champagne like warm brown sugar
cubes." Corinne Bailey Rae recalled sum-
mer youth and first love, while The Sea
seems to come several lifetimes later. It's
like the calm after the storm of grown-up
Often dark and heavy, The Sea might
throw off fans looking for lighthearted
fun. The deep, low opening and urgently
fluttering piano chords of "Feels Like The
First Time" reveal a restless poignancy,
and the song ends without any melodic or
lyrical closure. "Paper Dolls" has a simi-
larly pressing, urgent feel. Heavy key-
board harmonies and a solid drumbeat
underscore a story of a girl realizing her
own potential too late to change.
There's no "Put Your Records On"
here - Rae's 2006 radio hit about self-
love, "sapphire and faded dreams." But
The Sea is a satisfying release from - and
for - an artist sure to stay on the musical
radar for a long time. It's a sad story, but
one that makes for stirring art. And by
the end of the delicately building album
closer, it's clear that Corinne Bailey Rae
has come to peace with "the majestic sea
(that) breaks everything, crushes every-
thing, cleans everything, takes every-
thing from me."